‘Streams as toilets’: Thames Water’s real-time map shows scale of sewage dumps

Data reveals hundreds of hours of discharges via storm overflows in some locations

The scale of raw sewage discharges into rivers by England’s biggest privatised water firm is revealed in a new interactive map showing real-time discharges.

After growing pressure from campaigners and the public, Thames Water has created an interactive map showing sewage dumping via storm overflows in real time.

Ashley Smith, of Windrush Against Sewage Pollution, said: “It shows the extent to which Thames Water is reliant on being able to use our rivers and streams as toilets to deal with problems caused largely by underinvestment and profiteering. We think a similar picture will appear from all of the water companies and it is good to see Thames Water standing out and opening its doors a little wider.”

The data shows that in some locations, hundreds of hours of raw sewage is being discharged through storm overflows. At Marsh Gibbon, a village in Buckinghamshire, raw sewage was discharged on 19 December for 395 hours (16 days). A storm overflow at Standlake in west Oxfordshire discharged 122 hours of raw sewage into the River Windrush on New Year’s Eve. At Windsor, discharges into the River Thames carried on for four hours on Wednesday.

Southern Water also publishes data on sewage releases into waterways, but Thames Water is the first company to provide information on inland waterways being subjected to raw sewage discharges.

Dee O’Connell, of London Waterkeeper, a group pushing Thames Water to provide real-time data on sewage releases, said: “We need to make sure the data is accurate, but this is important because it gives communities information and enables them to put pressure on the company to invest in local areas to stop this. With this knowledge people can hold the water company to account.”

The data also shows where storm overflow monitors are not working.

A Thames Water spokesperson said: “Taking action to improve the health of rivers is a key focus for us, but we also need to explain what is happening, and why. After a successful trial in the Oxford area, we have decided to provide close to real-time information about storm discharges from all of our 468 permitted locations.

“We are absolutely committed to protecting and enhancing our rivers and the communities who love them, and we want to make these discharges of diluted sewage unnecessary as quickly as possible … the alerts will be available through an open data platform for third parties, such as swimming and environmental groups, to use.”


Sandra Laville

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Thames Water’s real-time map confirms raw sewage discharges
Effluent in Gloucestershire river pinpointed by digital map as water companies accused of routinely pumping out waste to rivers

Sandra Laville

23, Jan, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
South West Water fined £2.15m for dumping sewage in sea and rivers
Judge says pollution ‘will no longer be tolerated’ after investigation found significant environmental harm

Sandra Laville

27, Apr, 2023 @10:15 AM

Article image
Thames Water ordered to fix leaks before pumping millions of litres from rivers
Environment Agency tells supplier to rethink plans to tackle droughts by pumping water from Thames and Severn

Sandra Laville Environment correspondent

28, Mar, 2023 @10:54 AM

Article image
England raw sewage taskforce has only met once in last year, FoI request reveals
Storm overflows group has been promoted by ministers as evidence they are taking issue seriously

Sandra Laville

08, Jun, 2023 @8:48 AM

Article image
Conservationists seek judicial review of UK sewage discharge plan
Charity says strategy is unlawful and will allow storm overflows to dump raw sewage for next 28 years

Sandra Laville Environment correspondent

31, Aug, 2022 @8:41 AM

Article image
Water firms discharged raw sewage into English waters 400,000 times last year
Data published for first time by Environment Agency shows 27% increase on previous year

Sandra Laville

31, Mar, 2021 @10:34 AM

Article image
Water companies dumping sewage during dry weather, SAS report finds
Report exposes scale of human waste discharges into UK waters, including potentially illegal ‘dry spills’

Helena Horton Environment reporter

24, Nov, 2022 @4:00 AM

Article image
E coli levels in Suffolk river in Thérèse Coffey constituency far above legal limits, data shows
As environment secretary visits water treatment works on Deben, Anglian Water data reveals E coli levels exceed bathing water status

Sandra Laville

28, Apr, 2023 @8:03 AM

Article image
Sewage dumps into English rivers widespread, criminal inquiry suspects
Environment agency says initial investigation into all 10 water firms suggests possible ‘serious non-compliance’ with law

Sandra Laville

13, May, 2022 @11:03 AM

Article image
Starmer accuses government of ‘turning Britain’s waterways into an open sewer’
Lib Dems call for Thérèse Coffey to resign after raw discharges sent into English rivers 825 times a day last year

Helena Horton, Rowena Mason and Peter Walker

31, Mar, 2023 @6:30 PM