Sewage pollution: what we stand for

We demand an end to sewage discharge into UK bathing waters and a 90% reduction in sewage discharges by 2030.

UK water users are swimming in toxic cocktail of pollution. It’s time for water companies to clean up their act. Fast.

The UK consistently ranks as one of the worst European countries for coastal water quality thanks to the staggering amount of sewage, pollution and run-off entering our water. In 2021 alone there were over 370,000 discharges of raw sewage into UK rivers and seas. And during the 2022 bathing season alone, the hottest summer on record so far, we issued over 2,000 sewage discharge notifications for designated bathing waters through the Safer Seas & Rivers Service.

When we surf, swim or play in water that has raw sewage in it, we are at risk of gastroenteritis; ear, nose and throat infections; skin infections; and even hepatitis and e-coli. Research shows that water-users in the UK remain just as likely to become ill from seawater as they were in the 1990s. Poor water quality also harms river and ocean wildlife, reducing biodiversity, destroying delicate ecosystems, and threatening ocean recovery.

Meanwhile, regulators deliberately ignore the risks and impact of water pollution, while water companies continually fail to invest in improving infrastructure. Instead, they routinely discharge raw sewage into rivers and the ocean via thousands of ‘licensed sewer overflows’.

And sewage isn’t the only source of water pollution. From agricultural run-off to roads, landfill and poor waste management, a chemical cocktail of trash, microplastics and slurry is steadily poisoning our ocean, lakes and rivers.

So how do we clean up UK waters?

Through our network of Ocean Activists, supported by peer-reviewed evidence, we challenge the government and water companies to put a stop to sewage pollution in rivers and the ocean.

This means:

  • We need sewage legislation that sets ambitious and legally binding targets to end untreated sewage discharge in all bathing waters by 2030 and to reduce all untreated sewage discharges by 90% by 2030.


  • We need well-funded environmental regulators to uphold world leading water quality standards and hold polluters to account.
  • We need accurate real-time water quality information available all-year round for all UK inland and coastal bathing areas as well as popular water usage areas.


  • We need an enhanced, world leading testing regime which gives a true picture of the UKs water quality, tests for emerging threats to humans such as antibiotic resistant bacteria, viruses, microplastics, and the effects pollution is having on the environment.


  • We need to increase the number of inland bathing and recreation sites designated as bathing waters. We want 200 designated inland bathing waters by 2030.
  • We need water companies and other systemic polluters to invest urgently in their sewage infrastructure and end the use of sewage overflows.


  • We need the agricultural industry to amend practices to improve water quality, and for government to provide effective support to encourage this.


  • We need Water Companies to put the environment and public health ahead of private profit.
  • We need increased investment and associated targets for the restoration of natural habitats to reduce pressure on the water systems and help prevent sewage overflows.

The End Sewage Pollution Manifesto

Let’s turn the tide on sewage at the next general election. Created by water lovers united by an ambition to deliver thriving water environments, our manifesto sets out the progressive policies that we want all parties to include in their election promises ahead of the next election.

The End Sewage Pollution Manifesto

Our Water Quality Report

Read our latest Water Quality Report which lifts the lid on the profiteering polluters of the water industry.

Read the report

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