Take an in-depth look into when and where untreated sewage was poured into bathing waters in England from May to September

In this section:

SAS x Top of the Poops

The perfect partnership

During this year’s bathing season, sewage was dumped into bathing waters 5,504 times, for a total of 15,012 hours!

This year, we’ve collaborated with the Top of the Poops team to analyse where and for how long sewage overflows have been pumping sewage into designated bathing waters during the 2022 bathing season (15th May – 30th September in England).
What’s different about this year’s data?

Thanks to the campaigning might of national charities, local groups, and individual ocean and river activists up and down the country, water companies are now required to submit data on the number of times and for how many hours each of their sewer overflows discharge on an annual basis. This data is published by the regulators in March each year.

This year, for the first time, in addition to the annual returns, the Environment Agency instructed all water companies to submit sewage overflow information for the bathing season (15th May – 30th September) by the end of October.

We’ve used this data to help create a recent picture of how many sewage overflow events have taken place and for how many hours sewage has been pumped into bathing waters during the summer season.

In addition, the government has put a requirement on water companies in England and Wales to install Event Duration Monitors on all their sewage overflows by 2023 which, in theory, means they can accurately report every overflow event with no exceptions. The same requirements have not been put on Northern Ireland or Scotland.

What is top of the poops? (Totp)

TOTP is a website which analyses and maps the annual sewage data released by the regulators each March. It has a comprehensive breakdown of the annual data around the country, and you can search by useful criteria such as your area, local river and constituency.

The website is run on a voluntary basis and has been cited in the media across the UK. We’ve been working in collaboration with the TOTP to crunch the sewage overflow data for the 2022 bathing season. Was your local swim spot “Top of the Poops” in 2021?

2021 figures on ‘totp’

2022 bathing season sewage pollution

Bathing water figures each water company

The worst offender, United Utilities, was responsible for a disgusting 2,560 discharges into bathing waters during the 2022 season. That’s a total of 10,020 hours of sewage being pumped onto our most treasured beaches whilst we were on summer holidays and kids were off school.

The map below shows how many hours sewage was discharged into bathing waters per water company.

Why is there no data for Severn Trent?

Currently, Severn Trent doesn’t have any designated bathing waters in its region. Most designated bathing waters are coastal and the region is landlocked. We’re campaigning for more inland bathing waters to be designated – so watch this space.

Figure 6

Discharges per water company

About this chart

This bar chart shows the total hours each water company discharged sewage from their sewage overflows impacting bathing waters during the 2022 Bathing Season.

Source: Bathing Season Return 2022 from The Environment Agency


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