Today, the #EndSewagePollution Coalition, a cross sector group of organisations, is asking the public to demand their MP stand up for rivers and bring an end to sewage pollution which risks human health and damages precious water habitats.
The campaign calls on MPs to support the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, a Private Members Bill put forward by Philip Dunne, Conservative MP for Ludlow and Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, which will now be read in parliament on 15 January 2021 and not the original date of 13 November 2020.
The #EndSewagePollution Coalition is comprised of a number of environmental NGOs (E-NGOs) from across the water sector, including The Rivers Trust (supported by its 60 local rivers’ network), and is pushing for a change to the practice of discharging raw sewage directly into waterways, which is currently legal.
In 2019, there were more than 200,000 sewage discharges into rivers and more than 2,000 into coastal waters.
The coalition of E-NGOs worked closely with Mr Dunne to draft the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill. If successful, it would place a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged directly into rivers or coastal waters.
Companies would also be required to set out plans to progressively reduce their reliance on combined sewer overflows (CSOs) and to publicly report on the amount, condition, and quality of sewage discharged from CSOs or other sewer catchment assets.
In addition, the new law would compel the government to investigate possible further steps to be taken by stakeholders such as the Environment Agency to improve water quality more generally.
The Rivers Trust and Surfers Against Sewage, core members of the #EndSewagePollution Coalition, have released a new campaigning tool which allows members of the public to contact their local MP urging them to support the Bill, and tells them the scale of the problem in their constituency.
The letter will highlight the number of hours of CSO discharges which took place in the MP’s constituency throughout 2019, as well as the poor ecological status of England’s waterways overall.
After a recent petition by the #EndSewagePollution Coalition calling on the government to introduce new water quality legislation gained over 40,000 signatures, it is hoped that they can use this momentum to garner MPs’ support for the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill before its second parliamentary reading (now 15 January 2021).
The Bill already has cross-party support from a number of MPs including Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds and the independent MP for New Forest East, Dr Julian Lewis.
Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said: “We want this Bill to kick off a well-informed national debate about the water quality of our rivers and how we can use nature-based solutions to restore every community’s water environment to good health. “This will require not only higher levels of investment, but also far better data and governance at a river catchment scale so that we can achieve clear consensus about a collaborative, prioritised plan of action.
“Our “Is My River Fit to Swim In?” map, part of our Together For Rivers campaign, helps the public and MPs see one of our critical pollution issues at the constituency level.”
Amy Slack, Head of Policy & Campaigns for Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Over 44,000 people have signed the petition to end sewage pollution into rivers and the ocean.
“Now we are starting to be heard. But we have to continue to shout loudly to make sure real change is made.
“We must demand our MPs pipe up for rivers and back this Bill.
“As constituents, they must listen to us and represent us in parliament. Together with The Rivers Trust, we’ve designed a new tool on behalf of the #EndSewagePollution coalition to make it easy for thousands of emails to be sent by supporters of numerous organisation to demand MPs show up to support the Bill.
“Its time for MPs to stand up for our rivers.”
Visit sas.org.uk/EndSewagePollution-SewageBill to contact your MP.
Find out about where the sewerage network discharges into rivers at: experience.arcgis.com/experience/e834e261b53740eba2fe6736e37bbc7b/page/home/