Demand A Stop To Sewage On Our Beaches

TAKE ACTION with Surfers Against Sewage and lobby the Secretary of State for the Environment, and devolved nations equivalent Ministers calling for an end to sewer overflow abuse and ensure water quality is tested at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place.

The Safer Seas Service continues to exposes the failing in both the sewerage system, and the loopholes within the legal framework used to hide the true impacts of pollution. During the 2015 bathing season (May- Sept), 95% of UK beaches met the minimum EU water quality standard, yet the Safer Seas Service warned users of 3,045 pollution incidents from sewer overflow discharges and runoff from farmland and urban environments. There were 926 discharges of untreated human sewage at English beaches covered by the Safer Seas Service. Alarmingly only a mere 105 of these sewage spills had the potential to be monitored by the weekly Environment Agency water quality testing regime. Leaving a disturbing 89% of the untreated sewage discharges unchecked and outside of the legal framework designed to protect surfers, bathers, water users and coastal communities.

Further more, there are 41 beaches across England (16), Wales (11) and Scotland (14) where SAS believe the sampling spot is placed in an area that avoids the most polluted, yet popular areas on the beach.  The results at these beaches could be misleading  communities and the vital opportunity to implement any necessary improvements could be withheld.  There are 3 downloadable reports at the bottom of this page that feature the 41 beaches that we believe need the sample spot reviewed.


We have written to the Prime Minister after he and his family were reportedly caught out, unwittingly using the sea during a sewage pollution event this summer at Polzeath. We have also written to the First Ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland calling for:

  • A review of how the UK implements the Bathing Water Directive, ensuring bathing water quality is tested at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place, thus protecting the bathers, surfers and water users most at risk.
  • Increasing water company obligations to introduce more effective and faster investment to remove current sewer overflow assets with priority awarded to sensitive areas such as bathing waters, recreational watersports zones and Sites of Special Surfing Interest.
  • Mandatory year-round sewer overflow warnings introduced for all affected UK beaches regularly used by the public to protect public heath where the current water-quality testing regime fails to do so.
  • A strict, legally binding limit of 3 sewer overflow discharges per season, per sewer overflow asset. Discharges should only be acceptable in extreme weather events.
  • A ban on water companies installing all new sewer overflow assets directly impacting areas of the coastline important for public recreation or environmentally sensitive areas.

And we’re inviting all of our supporters to download this letter and send a strong message to Liz Truss, the Secretary of State for the Environment and the devolved nation’s Environment Ministers echoing our calls to adopt these urgent measures to protect the environment and the people that use it.

Step 1

Download the letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment (for English Supporters)

Download the letter for the Welsh Environment Minister

Download the letter for the Scottish Environment Minister

Download the letter for the Norther Ireland Environment Minister

Step 2

Add your name and address to the letter.

Step 3

Attach the letter in an email to [email protected] (England), [email protected] (Wales), [email protected]  (Scotland) or [email protected] (Northern Ireland).  Alternatively, post to the address featured on the letter.

Almost a hundred water users have contacted us about contracting illnesses after using the sea during the 2015 bathing season. There are serious health risks associated with using polluted waters, most commonly ear, nose, eye and throat infections, but can also include gastro enteritis, E. coli, hepatitis and much worse.  You can report any illnesses you contracted from the sea here and learn how to report a pollution incident here.

Water Quality Main

Ensure you get the best, free, real-time information about water quality by downloading the Safer Seas Service for free here. The Safer Seas Service receives daily predictions about the risks from diffuse pollution throughout the bathing season from the Environment Agency. Every coastal water company provides SAS with real-time data on sewage spills across England and Wales. Wessex Water, Yorkshire Water, Northumbrian Water and Welsh Water provide SAS with this vital data all year round. South West Water, Southern Water, United Utilities and Anglian Water* withhold this vital data outside of the bathing season.

Download the briefing document provided to the members of our Protect Our Waves All Party Parliamentary Group here.

Report on the English bathing waters in need of a sample spot review

Report on the Welsh Beaches in need of a sample spot review

Report on the Scottish beaches in need of a sample spot review

(* Anglian Water provide the Safer Seas Service with information for Cleethorpes and Humberston Fitties until the end of November.)