OUR AMBITION IS TO END SEWAGE DISCHARGE INTO UK BATHING WATERS BY 2030
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WHAT IS THE CAUSE?
Despite the proven risks to people and the environment, sewage and diffuse pollution events are purposely being ignored by the government and water companies are failing to invest in improving infrastructure.
The UK’s sewerage system is unfit for purpose and cannot cope with the pressures of increasing population, urbanisation and changing weather patterns – water company infrastructure investments have failed to protect the environment and recreational water users. Instead, they rely upon 17,684 licensed sewer overflows to routinely discharge raw sewage into rivers and the ocean.
Financial penalties are too easily built into the operating costs of water companies and don’t reflect the true environmental damage caused by the systematic discharging of untreated sewage. Additionally, weak enforcement of existing regulation from both underfunded and under resourced environment agencies means no effective driver is in place to ensure water companies change their behaviour.
The UK’s water quality testing regime, designed to protect water users and the environment, is set up to fail us. Evidence shows our water quality testing regime overlooks and ignores the worst pollution events in the country and misleads the public about the safety of the water.
Diffuse pollution from agriculture, roads, landfill and poor waste management exacerbates the problem with rivers and the ocean becoming contaminated with agricultural slurry, microplastics, car tyres and landfill sources.
What needs to change?
We are calling for an end to sewage pollution to guarantee safe seas, all year round. To ensure the health and wellbeing of the public, and help save the ocean, we need:
An enhanced water quality testing regime
- We want assurance that COVID-19 is not transmitted in sewage effluent
- We want to see the immediate reinstatement of the 2020 water quality testing regime
- We want an enhanced regime which tests for emerging threats such as antibiotic resistant bacteria and viruses
- We want accurate real-time water quality information available all year round for all UK inland and coastal bathing areas
World leading water quality legislation
- We want an Environment Bill that exceeds existing EU water quality standards
- We want sewage legislation that sets ambitious and legally binding targets to end untreated sewage discharge in all bathing waters by 2030
- We want legislation that upholds the same high standards for both inland and coastal waters
Nature based solutions to sewage pollution
- We want increased investment and associated targets for the restoration of natural habitats to reduce pressure on the water systems and help prevent sewer overflows
What is SAS doing?
Together with our network of ocean activists, supported by peer-reviewed evidence, we challenge the government and water companies to end sewage pollution in rivers and the ocean. We provide the only national real-time water quality service that protects all water users from pollution.
SAS has been leading the way in the fight for better water quality and sewage free seas. Over the last 30 years we have made some great stride. Our successes include:
- 98.5% of the 625 designated bathing waters around the UK are now classified as excellent, good, or sufficient. This is a huge leap forward from when we started in 1990, when just 27% of bathing waters could meet the same standards
- Providing the UK’s first real-time water quality information service for over 370 locations across England, Scotland and Wales. The Safer Seas Service allows us all to make informed decisions about the risk of entering the sea by providing alerts when both sewer overflows discharge untreated wastewater and when forecasting systems indicate water quality is temporarily reduced