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March 28th, 2024

Staggering amounts of sewage pumped into rivers in 2023

In 2023, untreated sewage was discharged into our rivers for a total of 57854 hours. There are 8760 hours in one year...

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New data released yesterday by the Environment Agency revealed that in 2023 untreated sewage discharged into the rivers in our catchment for a total of 57854 hours. There are 8760 hours in one year.

The worst of this damage was inflicted upon the Lavant, a rare and precious chalk stream, which was shown to have the worst polluting storm overflow in England in 2023. The Lavant Wastewater Treatment works storm overflow discharged sewage 286 times for a total of 6542 hours.

Every incidence of sewage pollution in our rivers and streams is unacceptable. When it occurs in a relatively small stream with a modest flow of water the impact can be most significant. Add to this that the Lavant is one of less than 300 precious chalk streams on Earth, and the tragedy is even more stark.

We understand that 2023 was a particularly wet year – the sixth wettest on record as shown in Met Office data. However climate change investigations and modelling have predicted wetter weather for decades now, and investments should have been made to be ready for this.

What can we do?

• We must urge the government, through our MPs to Ofwat and Defra, to approve water companies plans to reduce storm overflows.
• We implore Southern Water to prioritise delivering their promised investments to upgrade their failing infrastructure and to urgently bring forward planned remediation works.
• Call for Southern Water to release all their real time storm overflow monitoring data (including rivers) to the public as soon as possible, so everyone can make an informed decision before using our rivers for recreation.
• Ask councils to prioritise Sustainable Drainage Systems, including retrofitting them into streets, and for homeowners to fit water butts, create rain gardens and planters to catch the rain where it falls and slow the flow, keeping excess water out of our sewer system.

1 Environment Agency publishes storm overflow spill data for 2023 - GOV.UK (
2 Storm Overflow Spill Frequency (
3 2023 was second warmest year on record for UK - Met Office

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