The UK charity Surfers Against Sewage deserves support from divers for its continuing efforts to make the seas and inland waters in which we submerge less of a health risk.
Two weeks before staging what it hopes will be a nationwide wave of protests by water-users, SAS has chosen England’s local-election day (4 May) to release new data revealing the extent to which people have become angered by open-water pollution levels.
An Opinium consumer survey conducted in April among a nationally representative sample of 4,000 UK adults found that only 21% were confident that their water utility put charges towards improving services.
Environmental issues were the most important voting factor for 28% of respondents, 69% of whom were unhappy about water pollution. And while 72% said that the UK government should do more to tackle the problem, 85% felt that water company regulators needed to do more, with CEOs who failed to adhere to minimum environmental standards being barred from collecting bonuses.
In the poll, 64% of respondents identified access to blue space as good for their physical health, while 46% said that limiting such access was detrimental for their mental health, and 69% that sewage pollution deterred them from entering UK sea and rivers.
Recent data from utilities and the Environment Agency revealed that sewage was dumped into rivers and seas in Great Britain almost 400,000 times in 2022, despite it being one of the driest years in decades. Last year SAS found evidence of 143 “dry spills” – sewage overflows occurring when there had been no rain for two days – indicating potentially illegal activity by water companies.
The Labour Party’s proposed Water Quality Bill was recently rejected by the House of Commons. It would have introduced automatic fines for water companies guilty of dumping sewage and set a legal target to reduce sewage discharges by 90% by 2030.
Outrage into action
“Last year water companies paid out a combined £1 billion to their shareholders while dumping sewage into UK waterways almost 400,000 times,” says SAS communications head Josh Harris. “It’s time to put an end to this shameless profiteering.
“And it’s not just the water companies that need to clean up their act. The government and regulators should be enforcing high standards and holding water companies to account, but it’s clear to the public that they’re not doing enough. We’ve suffered decades of broken sewers because of our broken system, and now the public have had enough and are demanding an end to this sewage scandal.”
On Saturday, 20 May, SAS bids to convert public outrage into action by staging simultaneous mass “paddle-out” protest events at beaches and rivers across the UK, demanding an end to sewage discharges into UK bathing waters and a 90% reduction by 2030.
”Everyone who enjoys the UK’s blue spaces is welcome to participate in the protests, from paddlers to swimmers to snorkellers and divers – it‘s not limited to one water sport!” say the surfers.
“Water companies are wreaking havoc on our precious rivers and seas, and we refuse to stay silent. Head to your nearest protest and make your voice heard,” says Harris. Watch the SAS video and find locations where protests are due to take place.
SAS is also urging people to sign its “Dirty Money” petition, demanding an end to water companies profiting from pollution.
Also on Divernet: Deep Doodoo: Diver’s-Eye View Of A Florida Problem, ‘We Found Long-Banned Pollutants 8000m Deep’, Rise In Dead Zones Causes Concern, Sewage Surfer Sets Sustainability Tone