UPDATE: The second reading of The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill has been delayed. With lockdowns in place across the UK , parliamentary time is being understandably devoted to COVID-19. This just gives you more time to get in touch with your MP and demand they pipe up for rivers when the Bill returns.
Today the mission to #EndSewagePollution has taken another massive step forward with the publication of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill.
Over 40,000 people have now signed the petition to #EndSewagePollution, demanding better water quality legislation. Now we are being heard! Over the last few weeks we have been working hard to ensure our calls are written into proposed legislation. Together with a cross sector team of experts, environmental campaigners, lawyers and top academics, we have been supporting senior Conservative MP and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Phillip Dunne in drafting the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill. This seeks to place a duty on water companies to ensure untreated sewage is no longer discharged into England’s inland waters.
For decades, water companies have routinely discharged untreated sewage into English rivers, threatening the health of water users and the natural environment. In 2019 alone, raw sewage was discharged into UK rivers over 200,0000 times. But, the Bill has the chance to change things and become world leading water quality legislation.
The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, will require water companies to set out plans to progressively reduce their reliance on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). The Bill will also ensure an increased level of transparency, as firms will be mandated to publicly report on the number, condition, and quality of the sewage being discharged from CSOs and any other sewer catchment assets.
Phillip Dunne MP says,
‘Our rivers are a vital part of our natural heritage. It is right the Government has committed to restoring at least three quarters of our waters to their natural state.
But it is clear from last week’s latest assessment from the Environment Agency that we are a long way from achieving that, with fewer than one in six of our rivers in good health. This threatens the aquatic life and iconic species that rely on these precious habitats, such as freshwater fish, kingfishers, otters and dippers.
The discharge of untreated sewage is a major part of the problem. It poses a significant health risk to those who wish to enjoy our rivers for leisure and recreation.
The River Severn and its tributaries the Clun, Corve, Kemp, Onny, Rea, Teme and Worfe all flow through my constituency. They are nothing like as healthy as when I was a child, but they should be.
That is why I have brought forward this Bill, which aims to cut discharges of raw sewage into our rivers – protecting our precious habitats for wildlife and people to enjoy.’
This ambitious Bill will also champion the use of progressive nature-based solutions to manage water flow, which have the additional benefits of mitigating flood risk, climate change and biodiversity loss.
Mr Dunne’s proposed new law will also require the Government to investigate further steps that can be taken by stakeholders, such as the Environment Agency, to improve water quality. This could include designating at least two inland bathing waters every year to drive forward standards and setting legally binding targets to increase the number of bathing waters classified as “good” or “excellent”.
Hugo Tagholm CEO of Surfers Against Sewage says:
“Only 16% of waterways in England currently meet good ecological standard, which is exactly the same as in 2016. Without urgent change to the status quo sewage will continue to pollute our blue spaces that are so crucial to the health and wellbeing of water users up and down the country.
This ambitious and timely Bill will make sure water companies deliver on their environmental responsibilities and clean up their act.”
The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill will have its 2nd reading in Parliament on November 13th where MPs will have an opportunity to debate the bill and show their support for action to #EndSewagePollution.
Stay tuned to find out how you can contact your MP to ask them to support the Bill and join the movement to #EndSewagePollution.