Water Quality Report (2023)

We've uncovered the sewage scandal, and its devastating human impact, in all four corners of the UK.

Water companies are profiteering off making us sick and destroying our environment. It’s a sewage scandal!

The UK is riddled with a crumbling network of sewage pipes that leak and overflow beneath our feet. Sewage overflows, sometimes referred to as combined sewage overflows (CSO) or pumping stations, are part of our sewerage infrastructure owned and maintained by water companies. They are designed to discharge untreated wastewater in periods of exceptional rainfall to stop sewage backing up into people’s homes. However, water companies are using sewage overflows more than they should to dispose of sewage causing dangerous levels of pollution in the ocean and inland waterways.

In this report, we’ve used data collected through the SSRS between 1st October 2021 and 30th September 2022 to focus on the hidden health crisis caused by sewage pollution. We’ve crunched the numbers behind 720 health reports, highlighting the extent to which sewage pollution is literally making us sick. And we’ve delved into some shocking stories from the ocean and river lovers who have fallen ill this year after taking a dip.

Secondly, we’re using data from the Met Office and the SSRS to investigate possible ‘dry spill’ events. These are instances where a sewage overflow has discharged when there has been no rain. Since the law states that sewage should only be discharged in ‘unusually heavy rainfall’, a ‘dry spill’ can indicate illegal activity. We’ve looked at instances when we received notifications of sewage discharges at locations on the SSRS but no rainfall has been recorded in the area. We’re using this information to call out water companies on possible illegal practices.

And finally, for this year’s report we’ve teamed up with Top of the Poops to analyse sewage data from every sewage overflow affecting bathing waters in England from the 2022 bathing season (15th May – 30th September). Together we’ve discovered the number of times and for how many hours untreated sewage water has been dumped into our bathing waters this summer, and by whom.

Go to the report website

Read the report PDF