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.”