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Swim England backs MP’s bid to improve water quality of country's rivers

Swim England has given its backing to an MP’s efforts to clean up the country’s rivers and inland waterways.

With pools currently closed across the country, more and more people are turning to the sea, rivers, lakes or lochs to go swimming.

MP Philip Dunne’s ‘Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’ places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters.

It will require water companies to set out plans to progressively reduce their reliance on the use of combined sewer overflows (CSOs), which discharge untreated effluent after heavy rain.

The Bill also includes measures intended to promote improvements in bathing water quality to increase the number of bathing waters classified as “good” or “excellent”.

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “Untreated sewage was released into English rivers more than 200,000 times in 2019.

“Too many of our rivers are dirty, placing outdoor swimmers at an unacceptable and increased – yet totally avoidable – risk of becoming ill.

“Swim England is pleased to back this important Bill, which seeks to improve the quality of our waterways for the benefit of the environment, wildlife and everyone who enjoys being active in, or on, the water.”

Changing behaviour

Open water swimming has been growing in popularity and Swim Englandâ’s Value of Swimming report published in 2019 showed 7.5 million people swim outdoors.

More than 4.3 million of those said they swim in open water and outdoor pools, with the remainder swimming solely in outdoor pools.

Mr Dunne, the Member of Parliament for Ludlow, said: “I have introduced this Bill to the House of Commons to help make a vital start towards changing behaviour and practice to clean up our rivers.

“There are quite simply too many places where untreated human sewage routinely pollutes our waterways.

“Water companies are licensed to spill. This is ruining habitats and risks endangering public health. It has got to stop.”

The Bill was due to go before parliament on 22 January but has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and is now expected to be heard later in the year.

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