Last reviewed 28 January 2021

Water companies are under increasing pressure to stop discharging raw untreated sewage into local rivers, with over 100 MPs backing calls for a Private Member’s Bill designed to halt the practice.

The proposed Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, introduced by Philip Dunne, the Environmental Audit Committee’s Conservative Chair, would place a duty on water companies to prevent untreated sewage being discharged into coastal waters, rivers, and other inland waterways.

The Rivers Trust, leading this campaign in partnership with Surfers Against Sewage and the #EndSewagePollution Coalition, have welcomed the bill and encouraged constituents to write to their local MPs highlighting the scale of sewage pollution and the overall health of waterways in their constituencies.

Mark Lloyd, CEO of The Rivers Trust, said in October last year: “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.”

Surfers Against Sewage have brought attention to 200,000 discharges of untreated sewage into UK rivers and close to 2000 discharges into UK coastal bathing waters during the May-September bathing season alone.

Amy Slack, Head of Policy & Campaigns for Surfers Against Sewage, said: “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.”

Storm Cristoph has also brought public attention to the problem of untreated sewage discharge by water companies. North Wiltshire MP James Gray pledged his support for the bill following a number of sewer storm overflows in his constituency.

With over 44,000 signatures and the backing of more than 100 MPs, the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill had been earmarked for a parliamentary vote on 22 January but was delayed due to new lockdown measures.

The Leader of the House is responsible for rescheduling sittings affected by these changes, but the Government is yet to release a statement to address how Private Member’s Bills will be debated and passed during this lockdown.