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Sewage pollution is killing our rivers

Untreated sewage causing sewage fungus in the River Windrush, downstream from Bourton-on-the-Water


The River Windrush is home to many plants and animals. Families walk and picnic along its banks. But it's also being used as a cheap way of transporting raw sewage to sea.

Water crowfoot blooming in the Upper Thames, near Ewen (not far from the River Windrush)

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In 2020, Thames Water reported spilling untreated sewage for 3,644 hours on 228 occasions from 4 of the sewage works on the River Windrush. Sadly, this is happening to rivers across the country.

November 2019 and there's mysterious foam on the River Windrush (near the village of Windrush)

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"Not only is it often unsafe to let your children paddle in the Windrush, sometimes it isn't even safe to let dogs in."

Ash Smith, WASP Founder

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Thames Water is spilling huge quantities of untreated sewage

This is happening regularly, but only the most extreme pollution events result in fines. This has led to a culture of cumulative damage – a drip feed of poison that goes under the radar. This same pattern is being repeated nationwide.

Pipe owned by Thames Water spilling into the River Coln, turning the water brown at Fairford

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It's more profitable to pollute than to act sustainably

In 2020, Thames Water reported profits of £244.6 million after tax. As a whole, the water industry has made around £72 billion since being privatised. They continue to pollute -- both legally and illegally -- but there is little incentive to fix the problem. The Environment Agency's prosecutions policy ignores many offences.

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Meanwhile, your river is being destroyed

Swinbrook's charity rafting event was cancelled due to concerns about public health. Plant-life is being choked out of existence by sewage fungus and algae. Some species of fish (such as barbel and grayling) are struggling to breed. We want our river back and we’re pretty sure you do too.

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This photo shows the River Windrush, near Burford, in 2010. The water is clear and the weed is abundant – ideal conditions for wildlife.

Photo by Adam Burton, July 2010


This photo was taken in 2020. It's the same spot, in similar conditions. But the water is grey and the weed has vanished -- taking with it the habitat and food for many animals.

Photo taken in August 2020

How do we know sewage pollution is an issue?

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Our aim is to make the River Windrush safe for all

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Misleading information from the Environment Agency

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Fancy a longer read?

Sold down the river

How the water industry pollutes our rivers
and gets away with it

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We want our river back

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