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Swim England response to recent documentary on state of England's rivers

The recent ITV documentary ‘Tonight – ‘What’s In Our Water?’ looked into the issue of sewage discharges into rivers across England.

This is an issue we have been campaigning on as part of the #EndSewagePollution campaign.

During the documentary, a representative from the Environment Agency stated: “The rivers that we have are not there for human swimming.” This is an incredibly disappointing mind-set to hear from the regulator.

Swim England spokesperson, Jon Glenn, said: “Millions enjoy outdoor swimming each year, and it has proven benefits for people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“We should be improving access to open water swimming locations so that even more people can enjoy the benefits.

“People should be able to enjoy these blue lungs of the country without fear of becoming seriously ill, which is just one reason why we’ve been campaigning for improvements in the UK’s water quality.

“But even if nobody swam in any of our rivers ever again, they still must be improved for the benefits of the environment and wildlife.”

Protect our waterways

Last year water companies dumped raw sewage into England’s rivers and seas more than 400,000 times last year.

The Environment Bill is currently making its way through parliament where campaigners hope it will be strengthened to place a legal duty on water companies to take all reasonable steps to prevent sewage discharges.

A proposal to do just this was backed by 213 votes to 60 in the House of Lords earlier this week and this will now go back to the Commons.

The Government has announced it will also table its own amendment, which it states will put a legal duty on utility firms to ‘secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows’.

Glenn added: “It was positive to see the Government shift its position this week.

“While we will wait to see the exact wording of the Government’s proposal, it is certainly a welcome direction of travel which we hope will lead to the necessary strengthening of the Bill to protect our waterways.”