Fixing the sewage crisis

Ending sewege dumping and cleaning up our environment

In 2020, the Environment Agency recorded that raw sewage was discharged into rivers across England over 400,000 times. This came to a total of 3 million hours spent draining raw sewage into rivers in that year alone.

The result of this is damage to both our environment and to us. Sewage in a water system is broken down by microorganisms, this process requires a lot of oxygen that the microorganisms remove from the water system. This results in the water becoming anoxic and unable to support life for fish and other organisms.

The raw sewage encourages the growth of algae which forms a barrier on the surface of the water that blocks out light, making it difficult for aquatic plant life to grow and reduces the visibility for fish.

As a result, releasing sewage into water systems damages biodiversity of these environments and will severely impact other organisms that are reliant on these systems such as birds and mammals and humans. It is crucial that something is done to prevent sewage being discharged into rivers.

Policy solutions

Larger emergency basins

A solution to this issue could be to construct a large emergency basin at all water treatment facilities that they can use to drain sewage into during periods of storms and heavy rainfall, rather than dumping it straight into a river. This can then be treated later on although this will only work for smaller amounts of sewage that plants can later process.

Building more treatment plants

This would involve building more sewage treatment facilities across the UK and keeping them at a distance from housing estates so that should there ever be a flood, it would have minimal impacts on people’s homes and animals.

Better regulation for sewage companies

This could include measures such as:

  • Larger fines for water companies that dump excess waste into rivers.
  • Higher government investment in sewage facilities.
  • Eventually look towards a new model for utility companies and natural monopolies. This should be be highly regulated and learn from Japan’s model of privately owned railways. These rail companies have their profits managed by the government depending on how good their services are.

About the author

Ryan Frendo

Digital team member

Ryan was previously a Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Assistant at Telford & Wrekin Council and he studied Marine and Freshwater Biology at Aberystwyth University.