What went wrong with Britain's water system?

A detailed look at the problems of CSO's and the flawed historic and ongoing decisions that have led to today's Sewage problems.

If you were going to design Britain's sewage system from scratch today, the one we have, to put it mildly, isn't the design you'd pick. But for most of the country, it's simply too late. Most urban areas have systems that "bake in" sewage spills pretty much forever.

Click link: Down the drain: What went wrong with Britain's water system? | Science & Tech News | Sky News

New study finds that sewage release is worse for rivers than agriculture

Ahead of World Rivers Day (24 September 2023), new research by the University of Oxford reveals that sewage discharge into rivers has a greater impact on water quality, and the animals and plants that live in rivers, than surrounding land use. This has strong implications for the state of UK rivers in light of the recent threats to weaken nutrient neutrality regulations for new housing developments. The findings have been published today in the journalsGlobal Change BiologyandEcological Solutions and Evidence.

Click link: New study finds that sewage release is worse for rivers than agriculture | University of Oxford

Volunteers can’t save our rivers from this tide of filth

Citizen scientists are no replacement for an underfunded and toothless Environment Agency

click link: Volunteers can’t save our rivers from this tide of filth | Letters | The Guardian

Citizen scientists join fight to clean up rivers

According to the environmental charity Earthwatch, people are increasingly taking pollution monitoring into their own hands.

click link:Citizen scientists join fight to clean up rivers - BBC News

How you can help save Britain's rivers by becoming a citizen scientist

As part of New Scientist's Save Britain's Rivers campaign, we've rounded up the best citizen science projects that let you play an active role in improving the nation's waterways

Click link: Saving Britain's Rivers: How you can help by becoming a citizen scientist | New Scientist

Citizen science survey finds that one in ten people have become ill after swimming in UK rivers

Survey will help researchers determine how much of a risk sewage and other river pollution actually pose to humans – about which little is yet known

Click link: Citizen science survey finds that one in ten people have become ill after swimming in UK rivers (

Catastrophic effect of warming temperatures on river life in Wales

A 42-year-long study carried out in 14 streams in the Cambrian Mountains has revealed the catastrophic effect of warming water temperatures on Wales’ river life.

click link: Catastrophic effect of warming temperatures on river life in Wales - Wales Online

Pollution and climate change hamper biological recovery of rivers

Researchers from Cardiff University analysed nearly 50,000 invertebrates collected from about 4,000 streams and rivers. Emma Pharaoh, a researcher at the university’s school of biosciences, said: “Invertebrates are important indicators of river health, reflecting pollution and other human impacts. By looking at the types of invertebrates living on the riverbed, we can get a good picture of river health. The research showed that some improvements in rivers in England and Wales appear to have slowed, possibly reflecting the effects of emerging water quality problems from sewage, agricultural pollution, climate change and new forms of pollution, including microplastics and pharmaceuticals.

Click link: Pollution and climate change hamper biological recovery of rivers (

Study finds sewage bacteria in ocean spray

After a rainstorm passes, the air coming off the ocean just feels different – cleaner and fresher. But a first of its kind study shows how bacteria from sewage in the oceancan get whipped up in salt spray and blow into coastal communities miles away, a phenomenon exacerbated by storm runoff.

click link: Not a breath of fresh air: study finds sewage bacteria in ocean spray | US news | The Guardian

Stormwater Management at The Cog Moors Wastewater Treatment Works in Wales

Wales is said to be wetter throughout the year than Northern Ireland and England, and is known for intense rainfall activity. Therefore, effectively treating and managing the country’s substantial stormwater runoff is of utmost importance. It’s also subject to increased scrutiny from governing bodies. Trojan Technologies worked with Imtech Process Ltd – Cog Moors WwTW’s engineering contractor – to complete modeling and run a pilot project from May 2007 to January 2008. These studies proved to Cog Moors WwTW and the EAW that not only was UV technology very effective in treating stormwater, it was also the better economic and environmental choice.

click link: Stormwater Management - Cog Moors WwTW | TrojanUV Resources

Swansea Waste Water Treatment uses Ultra Violet Processing

Swansea WwTWis operated by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and is a keytreatment plant because SwanseaBay is designated as bathing water.

Swansea Bay Wastewater Treatment Works wasbuilt in 1998 at a cost of £40 million. The majority of the sewage treated at the works comes from the Swansea Valley and eastern and central areas of the city, and has the capacity to deal with waste received from 188,000 households.

click link: Safeguarding Public Health – Swansea Wastewater Treatment Works, Swansea Case Study (

Welsh Government conducting feasibility study on reintroduction of beavers

The results of a study on the possible reintroduction of beavers in Wales are due to be presented this spring.

click link: Welsh Government conducting feasibility study on reintroduction of beavers to Wales (

England is finally protecting the beavers that could save our failing rivers

Beavers are a keystone species, which means they exert a disproportionately important effect on the larger ecosystem. They engineer abundant river systems, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a lifetime. Studies show that active beaver wetlands can welcome up to a third more species across the food chain, compared to wetlands without beavers.

click link: Beavers can help Britain fight the climate crisis – if we welcome them back | Sophie Pavelle | The Guardian

Also: Plans to reintroduce beavers on Shropshire estate next year

The introduction of Beavers is a complex challenge

see this link: Beavers are tormenting Britain - UnHerd

Beaver Reintroduction Survey

As researchers at the University of Exeter, we are inviting residents in Wales to take part in research investigating attitudes towards Eurasian Beaver (Castor fiber) reintroduction in Wales. We would like to invite you to take part in this research, and to share this invitation within your networks.


This research aims to better understand public attitudes to beaver reintroduction in Wales, including how respondents feel about beaver management techniques and how attitudes differ between groups of people. All views are welcome. Participation is voluntary and anonymous, and the survey can be completed in Welsh or English.


Findings will be outlined in a results report that will be submitted to Natural Resources Wales and North Wales Wildlife Trust. It will also become publicly available in 2023, and participants will be offered the opportunity to opt in to receive a copy of this results report. Findings may also be reported upon in a subsequent academic publication.


This research is commissioned by North Wales Wildlife Trust with funding received through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government. The research is being independently conducted by the University of Exeter. North Wales Wildlife Trust do not have oversight of the analysis.


Thank you for considering this invitation, and for any contribution you may be willing to make. Further information is available at the survey links:


If you have any questions about the survey, please email

If you have questions about beavers in Wales, please email


Afonydd Cymru Summary of Second Phosphorus Summit 

On Wednesday 8th March, 2023, the second Phosphorus Pollution Summit was held in Cardiff, hosted by First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS.

Julie James MS, Minister for Climate Change an dLesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Rural Affairs were also in attendance, as were representatives from Natural Resources Wales, local authorities, the agricultural sector, house building and the environment. Representing the rivers and river trusts of Wales was Gail Davies-Walsh, CEO of Afonydd Cymru.

First Ministers summary was: ‘we need to do more and we need to do it quicker’. We also welcome his commitment to lead the governance structure being developed. What we absolutely need to see is more action.

click link: Second Phosphorus Summit: Our Summary | Afonydd Cymru

see also: New strategy agreed on reducing river pollution (

River pollution:phosphate pollution is causing "serious damage" to rivers

Experts say more phosphate, found in animal and human waste, is getting into rivers and affecting water quality.

Tougher rules on phosphate river pollution targets have been brought in - but that could affect 100,000 new-build homes in England and Wales.

Developers want governments to take urgent action to find a solution.

click link:River pollution: New phosphate rules hit thousands of planned new homes - BBC News

One man’s quest to turn sewage into eco-gold

Phosphorus in fertilizer is crucial to feeding the world but too much of the element in the environment is disastrous.

A revolution in capturing phosphorus from wastewater is underway.

Phosphorus recovery will improve water quality and create a more sustainable food system.

click link: The green genius of capturing phosphorus from sewage - Big Think

Scientists warn of ‘phosphogeddon’ as critical fertiliser shortages loom

Our planet faces “phosphogeddon”, scientists have warned. They fear our misuse of phosphorus could lead todeadly shortagesof fertilisers that would disrupt global food production. At the same time, phosphate fertiliser washed from fields – together with sewage inputs into rivers, lakes and seas – is giving rise to widespreadalgal bloomsand creating aquatic dead zones that threaten fish stocks.

click link: Scientists warn of ‘phosphogeddon’ as critical fertiliser shortages loom | Pollution | The Guardian

Australia mass fish deaths in Darling River March 2023

Global warming is a danger to river life - It follows previous large-scale fish deaths in the same area in 2018 and 2019 as a result of poor water quality and sudden temperature changes. The state planning and environment agency warned river oxygen levels could fall further this weekend as temperatures rise.

click link: Australia mass fish deaths: Slick of bodies blanket surface of major river causing a putrid stench | World News | Sky News

also: Australian police say removing millions of dead fish from Darling River near Menindee will be 'logistical nightmare' | World News | Sky News

also: At Menindee, the lifeblood of the people has turned to bitter sludge | Environment | The Guardian

Mine Water and the Environment in Wales

The Pelenna project was one of the first and largest wetland schemes to treat UK mine water and predated the formation of the Coal Authority in 1994. The Neath Port Talbot Council formed a partnership with the NRA, and its successor, Environment Agency Wales (EAW) in 1996 to construct wetlands to treat five mine water discharges, using emerging technologies such as reducing and alkalinity producing systems (RAPS) and ochre accretion terraces.

click link: Mine Water and the Environment in Wales | SpringerLink

see also: Non Coal Mine Pollution in Wales

Salisbury River Park Project: Mammal traps set on River Avon

As part of the Salisbury River Park Project, the traps have been set in place to catch any water voles that may have set up home along that stretch of water. These animals are then removed and relocated safely.

click link: Salisbury River Park Project: Mammal traps set on River Avon | Salisbury Journal

Infinite beauty, Infinite destruction, Infinite consequences: rivers and mining 

“In the very heart of the ancient hills themselves, the rushing brooks run foul with mineral waste and treatment oils and acids, and their flow is choked with heaps of stones and rubble.” Dr. Kathleen Carpenter (1928), fromLife in Inland Waters, the first British freshwater textbook.

click link: Infinite beauty, Infinite destruction, Infinite consequences: rivers and mining around Aberystwyth (

Alien plant invasions: helping British rivers to fightback

From lochs and lakes to rivers, ponds and canals, there is a diverse range of freshwater habitats in the UK, which is good news not just for biodiversity but also the economy, where they are collectivelyvalued at £39.5 billion. Rivers in particular are highly biologically diverse environments, home to a wide variety of plants, invertebrates and fish. But linked together within a river catchment, they are prone to invasion by alien species that can spread quickly between these interconnected habitats.

Invasive alien plant species are of one of the biggest concerns to river environments. These contribute to the loss of native plants and invertebrates, as well as altering soil chemistry and impeding river flow. It costs the UK government around£1.7 billionto control invasive alien species and an estimated £6m alone to control the well-known troublesomeJapanese knotweed(Fallopia japonica).

click link: Alien plant invasions: helping British rivers to fight back (

Why are we killing the Wye, and when will we stop?

Pollution in the Upper River Wye catchment : The Causes and Lessons for Campaigners working in other UK River Catchments.

Authors: Brian Morgan, Stephen Eades and David Levy – all Marinet members


The river Wye and its tributaries are in serious trouble.The main cause is the intensive farming of chickens and their manure, spread on local land and entering the rivers. This is one of England’s finest river systems, yet its levels of pollution are worsening and are now threateningto kill it. This report’s concern is as much with finding the solution as it is in defining the problem. Knowing the authors of this problem and their practices allows us to identify the solution. The authors are several.
1. Farmers, who have a right to farm and to maximise their income.
2. Regulators, the Environment Agency and planning authorities, whose responsibility it is
to ensure poultry waste does not cause pollution.
3. The Conservation agency, Natural England, responsible for protecting the river’s ecology.
4. The Government department : Dept. for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
DEFRA is responsible for the legal framework and for ensuring the nation’s food security.

After revealing the nature and depth of the problem in our report, we turn to ourreal concern and key question: what is the solution? The authors of the problem are also essential players in the solution, but there are two other principal parties as well. One is the national agricultural fertiliser manufacturers. This report reveals that nationwide intensive poultry farming can, through its manure and its recovery by anaerobic digestion, supply around 20% of the nation’s nitrate and 60% of its phosphate fertiliser needs. This valuable resource is a low energy source of raw material for the fertiliser industry, and its potential is unrecognised by both the poultry farmers and the fertiliser manufacturers. We highlight the need for all parties to start engaging in this creative, profitable solution which turns this poultry manure into a widely available national agricultural fertiliser, instead of a deadly pollutant.

The other key player in the solution is the new Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), created by Parliament in the 2021 Environment Act. At present the OEP’s work and purpose is untested, but Parliament has intended it to respond directly to the concerns of the public and non-governmental organisations whenever they feel that the institutions of government, like DEFRA and others mentioned above, are failing to implement the laws for which they are responsible, or what the OEP terms as ‘breaking environmental law’.Marinet has complained to the OEP — tell the OEP you support the complaint.

The message of our report is strongly focused on the solution, not just the problem. Farmers, fertiliser companies, the OEP, government and you — all can, and must, build the solution. Read on to learn exactly how this can be done, and how to make your own thoughts known.

click link: Marinet – Marine Conservation For The UK

Reusable granules suck harmful PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ out of water

UK start-up Puraffinity has created a method of removing pollution from water using a material that selectively binds to PFAS chemicals

click link: Reusable granules suck harmful PFAS ‘forever chemicals’ out of water | New Scientist

Many of the Teifi Pollution problems are explored in this video

Tracking the travel itinerary of the River Dee's salmon

Advances in technology have allowed tiny transmitters to be fitted to young salmon in southern Scotland in a bid to help boost their survival rate.

The project began in 2021 on the Ken/Dee river system in Galloway.

click link: Tracking the travel itinerary of the River Dee's salmon - BBC News

Pupil praised for sewage tracking innovation

A Cornish school pupil is using satellite imagery to track sewage pollution in rivers.

Arthur, 13, who attends Mullion School near Helston in Cornwall, said he had adapted existing satellite image feeds to monitor the pollution that sampling stations could be missing. It shows the amount of chlorophyll in the water, produced by algae which grows rapidly in polluted water.

click link: Pupil finds new way to monitor sewage pollution in waterways - BBC News

Smart farming platform improves crop yields, minimizes pollution

A new farming system developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin aims to solve one of the biggest problems in modern agriculture: the overuse of fertilizers to improve crop yields and the resulting chemical runoff that pollutes the world's air and water.

click link: Smart farming platform improves crop yields, minimizes pollution (

USW researchers make sewage waste breakthrough

Researchers at the University of South Wales (USW) have made a breakthrough in how sewage waste could be used to revolutionise the development of large-scale farm fertilisers.

click link: USW researchers make sewage waste breakthrough (

We have forgotten what a 'natural' river even looks like

Britain’s rivers are under the spotlight because of an untreatedsewage crisis, and the pendulum offloodsanddroughtsthat are the hallmark of a warming world. But hidden within these policy debates is a pervasive and under reported issue: quite simply, people have forgotten what a natural river even looks like.

This is important because it underpins attitudes towards the kind of rivers people expect to live with, and therefore constrains the changes to rivers that people will be willing to accept. Scientific evidence says radically different looking rivers are needed in order to accommodate larger, more frequent floods and droughts, to deliver increases in biodiversity, and to store more carbon.

click link: We have forgotten what a 'natural' river even looks like (

River Foss paracetamol level is 'evidence of sewage'

Experts say they discovered one of the highest concentrations of paracetamol ever recorded in a river globally in the River Foss in York.

And they claimthe new figures are"clear cut" evidence that there was sewage present in the River Foss at the time several fish were found dead.

click link: York: River Foss paracetamol level is 'evidence of sewage' | York Press

Current sewage pollution issues could be the result of privatisation legislation

There has been much publicity recently regarding the adverse nature of storm sewage discharges into UK rivers and streams that continue to be attributed to water company sewerage networks and their wastewater treatment works. Here's an in depth and technical look at the problem.

click link: Current sewage pollution issues could be the result of well-intended privatisation legislation | New Civil Engineer

How the water you flush becomes the water you drink

Heavy Construction of a Sewage Pump Station

Guide to turbidity measurement

Turbidity is essentially a measure of how cloudy a liquid is. This cloudiness is often used to quantify the amount of particles disrupting light passing through a liquid. For example, muddy water has a lot of small soil particles, which disrupts light going through it and makes it very cloudy and turbid, while spring water tends not to have many particles in and so is clear and not very turbid. Check out ourblog postfor further reading.

click link: Guide to turbidity measurement and the equipment required Camlab

Is Asbestos in Our Water Dangerous?

‘Is our drinking water safe from asbestos contamination?’ While this is a question that you probably haven’t considered before, this doesn’t mean that it one that’s not worth asking, despite the fact that construction using asbestos was banned over 30 years ago. The problem here is that some of the water pipes in the UK, through which drinking water is supplied to houses, have been made with asbestos cement.

In this article, the team here at Asbestos Waste Solutions will take a look at this problem in greater detail, discussing whom it may effect.

click link: Is the Asbestos in Our Water Dangerous? (

See also these links fromJullieth Cragwell of the public outreach department of The Mesothelioma Center in the USA: