This week, ITV Westcountry News shared a story about sewage issues in the River Sheppey and its catchment.

The ITV article considered a recent change that could allow some temporary easing of the sewage discharge rules by the Environment Agency following a shortage of a chemical in the water treatment process.

According to the ITV news story, Wessex Water has confirmed it will not be using this relaxation of the rules.

Our CEO Dr Laurence Couldrick said: “Our Somerset rivers are already being significantly impacted by both sewage and agricultural pollution.

“Only 14% of England’s rivers meet good ecological standards and they are all suffering a slow death from a thousand cuts.

“The insufficient amount of the Ferric Sulphates needed to manage algal growth in sewage treatment works that is causing the Environment Agency to provide an option that lowers the level of treatment required before discharging to rivers, will only exacerbate this problem further.

“We urge the Government to quickly address the supply chain and labour issues that are causing this lowering of standards of effluent treatment.

“Relaxing regulation of pollution is not a solution to the problem, and they should be dealing with the root causes.”

As part of the news item, a local resident spoke about the condoms, tampons and human waste he has seen in the river that runs through his garden after emergency drains have been used.

For our charity, education across communities and various business/industry sectors is important, and we know it will take a joined up effort to see our rivers reach the standards we want for them. Part of this includes people making sure they only flush the Three P’s (poo, pee and paper) down their loos.

It also means encouraging more people to think about helping our work researching the health of our rivers through our volunteer citizen science project, Westcountry CSI.

In 2021 alone, our amazing #WestcountryCSI volunteers have collated 1,839 river surveys, which include water quality testing, wildlife recording and pollution checks. This first-hand experience is invaluable at informing where interventions may be needed and building an ongoing picture of the health of our Westcountry rivers. With 850+ waterbodies across the region, we do need more people to sign-up as a citizen science to help highlight what is happening across Somerset, Cornwall, Devon, and West Dorset.

Our senior evidence and monitoring officer Simon Browning, as part of his interview, highlighted how we can all give the water companies a hand by flushing wisely and giving the current systems we have the best chance, but also how better sewage treatment is needed along with smarter ways of farming.

Through science and evidence-based data, our charity can help to underpin calls for better regulation and investment that will support our rivers in recovery.

See the ITV report at

The Rivers Trust released its England-wide report State of Our Rivers on 24 September. It shares available data on rivers across the country, enabling people to find out more about what is currently known and providing a basis for them to hold polluters and government to account.

In reference to this, Laurence added: “The State of Our Rivers report should act as the touchstone to galvanise individuals, communities, organisations, local authorities and the Government to act now for healthy rivers – without them our lives will be very different.”