It's time for change
We dream of wild, healthy, natural rivers valued by all… but to get there, we need to talk about pollution.
There is currently only one designated bathing water in a UK river – and it’s classed as poor quality. This means recreational river users—anglers, swimmers, canoeists, paddlers, you name it—are at risk every time they wade in to the water. With your help, we can change that.
We want to introduce bathing water standards for well-used rivers across the UK, so you can swim, paddle, catch and play without worrying about pollution.
To do this, we need to create a comprehensive national monitoring programme, so we can observe the scale of the problem and provide strong data to back up our case. However, we need your support; without your donations, we simply cannot gather data on the scale necessary to see bathing water standards introduced.
It’s time to wade in. Together, for rivers.
What do we want?
- We want bathing water standards in well-used rivers for the benefit of a multitude of recreational activities (there are currently no designated bathing waters in rivers).
- We want nature based solutions to be used where they can help reduce floods, rainwater run-off and Improve the effluent released from sewage treatment works.
- We want to create an honest conversation about sewage, agricultural and other sources of pollution in rivers so we understand the scale of the challenge.
- We want clean, healthy rivers that are fit enough to play in – we believe that if a river is fit enough to swim, paddle, catch and play in, then the river will have greater economic, environmental and social value.
- We want to maximise the length of rivers where the quality of water is suitable for recreational activity.
- We want to involve people in the solution to reignite their attachment to the natural world.
- We want to work together, for rivers. #TogetherForRivers
Raw sewage in our rivers
Sewage is discharged into rivers across the UK and Ireland on a daily basis. This isn’t an isolated problem; it occurs up and down the country, affecting urban city centre rivers and pristine chalk streams alike.
How does sewage get into rivers?
Our sewer systems are designed to transport waste water, raw sewage and urban drainage to a sewage treatment plant, where it is then cleaned to an environmentally safe standard before being released or re-used. However, it doesn’t always work like this in practice.
Periods of heavy rainfall can easily overwhelm sewer systems. To prevent our homes from flooding as the sewers begin to back up, a mixture of sewage and rainwater can be discharged into rivers. This form of release is permitted by the government – however, there are no regulations as to what constitutes heavy rainfall, and some sewage outfalls have been recorded discharging without any rainfall at all.
If sewers become blocked, this can result in the discharge of backed up sewage into rivers. Blockages can occur when non-flushables, such as wet wipes, are flushed down the toilet, or when grease and oils are washed away down the sink.
Old or outdated sewage treatment plants
Legally, outdated sewage treatment plants are able to discharge constantly. Despite this, the levels of treatment are not sufficient to protect environmental health.