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Swim England backs new petition to make 200 rivers designated Bathing Waters

Swim England is backing a nationwide campaign to ensure 200 rivers are designated as Bathing Waters by the end of the decade.

Chief executive Jane Nickerson has signed the Speak Up For Our Rivers petition set up by environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage.

There are more than 600 designated Bathing Waters in the UK but only one of these is on a river.

The latest campaign aims to increase this number and create blue spaces where water quality is officially monitored for harmful bacteria and viruses.

It would also see legal obligations placed on industry to stop sewage and agricultural pollution.

Jane said: “I’m happy to add my support to this petition to help end sewage pollution in our rivers.

“With millions of people enjoying swimming outdoors each year in the UK and increasing awareness of the harm being done to rivers as a result of pollution from sewage, agriculture and other forms of pollution, the case for action is clear.

Speak up for our rivers

“I hope people will get behind this latest campaign and send a clear message that the time for change is now.”

Swim England has previously backed the Sewage (Inland Waters Bill), which proposed a legal target of designating at least two ‘bathing rivers’ in each water company area per year. 

Whilst many aims of this Bill ended up being included in the Environment Act 2021, this aim was not one of them. 

The Government is currently considering designating a further two stretches of water following a recent consultation earlier this month.

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns at Surfers Against Sewage said: “It’s great to have Swim England’s support for the petition.

“Pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run-off and chemicals are putting the population at risk of getting sick, destroying delicate ecoysystems and threatening ocean recovery.

“With our shared commitment to #EndSewagePollution this petition represents the next step to help speak up for our rivers and I hope swimmers up and down the country will get behind it.”

Powerful tool

Sufers Against Sewage’s latest petition comes weeks before new data is due to be issued by the Environment Agency on the scale of sewage discharges released by water companies in 2021. 

Hugo Tagholm, CEO at Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Designated bathing waters are a powerful tool to help bring communities together, drive water quality improvements and protect both people and planet. 

“More Bathing Waters, both coastal and inland, will shine a light on poor water quality in our rivers, lakes and beaches and so be the catalyst for real, systemic change. 

“We need to see hundreds more official swimming sites throughout our rivers, to help drive a decade of ambition for clean water. 

“The public demand rivers and beaches free from sewage pollution, and Bathing Water status is the first step to making this a reality. 

“Action must be taken from source to sea, and we must ensure that the Government and the water industry move from making good statements to making good all our blue spaces to delivering thriving blue environments for all. 

“It’s time to end sewage pollution once and for all.”