Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill

Philip Dunne MP launches new Bill to tackle river pollution

Salmon & Trout Conservation warmly welcomes the introduction of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill, aimed at tackling the unacceptable levels of raw sewage being discharged into our rivers and streams.

Rt. Hon Philip Dunne MP for Ludlow has published his Private Member’s Bill designed to tackle river pollution from untreated sewage and improve water quality.

In 2019, raw sewage was discharged into rivers across England and Wales for over 1.5 million hours, compromising these vital habitats for wildlife and endangering the health of people who use our rivers for recreation.

Philip Dunne MP, who is also chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, said:

“Our rivers are a vital part of our natural heritage. It is right the Government has committed to restoring at least three quarters of our waters to their natural state.

But it is clear from last week’s latest assessment from the Environment Agency that we are a long way from achieving that, with fewer than one in six of our rivers in good health. This threatens the aquatic life and iconic species that rely on these precious habitats, such as freshwater fish, kingfishers, otters and dippers.

The discharge of untreated sewage is a major part of the problem. It poses a significant health risk to those who wish to enjoy our rivers for leisure and recreation.

The River Severn and its tributaries the Clun, Corve, Kemp, Onny, Rea, Teme and Worfe all flow through my constituency. They are nothing like as healthy as when I was a child, but they should be.

That is why I have brought forward this Bill, which aims to cut discharges of raw sewage into our rivers - protecting our precious habitats for wildlife and people to enjoy.”

The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters. The Bill will require water companies to set out plans progressively to reduce their reliance on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). It proposes increasing levels of transparency, as firms will be mandated to report publicly not just on the frequency and extent of sewage discharges from CSOs and any other sewer catchment assets, but also on the impact on water quality as this is enabled by advances in technology.

Nick Measham, CEO S&TC said,

“I am delighted to see this vital Bill introduced and have been pleased that S&TC was able to make use good use of the donations we receive from members, and elsewhere, to allow S&TC’s lawyer to play a significant role in drafting the Bill and the Explanatory Notes.”

Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill 

Sewage Bill (Explanatory Notes)

The Bill also proposes measures to upgrade drainage infrastructure to separate household sewage from surface water drainage, helping reduce the risk of overspills. It includes measures to reduce harmful products such as non-biodegradable wet wipes, commercial fats and oils from being disposed down the drains. It also proposes measures to expand the number of inland bathing waters and establish targets to increase those classified as “good” or “excellent”.

Guy Linley-Adams, solicitor with Salmon and Trout Conservation said,

“The Bill is a welcome and necessary correction to the post-privatisation legislation for controlling sewage pollution of rivers, streams and lakes. As we leave the EU, we need to increase the level of ambition and this Bill does that. All sides in this debate, including water companies, recognise that we need to build back better post-Covid, including in our water infrastructure, so this Bill deserves, and I’m sure will get, very strong cross-party support.”

The Bill has additional support from environmental charities and NGOs including,

The Rivers Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, The Wildlife Trusts, The Angling Trust, Chalk Aquifer Alliance.

We encourage you to share the Bill with your local MP and lobby them to support it.

Who is my MP? https://www.writetothem.com

Notes

  1. The Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP has been Member of Parliament for Ludlow since May 2005. In February 2020 he was elected Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee. He is also a member of the Conservative Environment Network Parliamentary Caucus.
  1. Untreated sewage is discharged directly into rivers from licensed Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) managed by the 9 water and sewerage companies in England, which are permitted by the Environment Agency (EA) to exceed consented concentrations during periods of heavy rainfall. Recent data obtained by the Guardian established 6,508 inland CSOs discharged untreated sewage into rivers over 200,000 times across England for over 1.5 million hours in 2019, meaning that they likely occurred far more regularly than just during periods of intense rainfall.
  1. The government set an ambition in the 25 Year Environment Plan to improve at least three quarters of UK waters and return them to their natural state. However, the latest assessment by the Environment Agency showed that just 16% of England’s rivers meet the criteria for ‘good ecological status’, unchanged from 2016.