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Remedies to improve water quality needed so more can experience health benefits

Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson explained that ‘remedies’ to improve water quality must be found to allow more swimmers to experience the health benefits of outdoor swimming.

During a parliamentary inquiry into water quality, Jane urged MPs that simply monitoring water quality was not enough and that remedies must be found to ensure there are ‘safe places to enjoy the water’.

The Environment Agency reported that none of the country’s rivers were in good overall health and only 14 per cent met good ecological status and the situation hasn’t improved since 2009.

Latest figures revealed that raw sewage was pumped into our rivers more than 400,000 times in 2020 alone, for a total of more than 3.1 million hours.

In the inquiry, Jane said: “We have to find a way through this. For me this isn’t just about monitoring and just saying ‘don’t go in the water there it’s not clean’.

“We have to find remedies, short and long term, to make sure that there are bathing areas and all rivers are safe places to go in and enjoy the water.”

Jane also discussed the health benefits of swimming outdoors, with Swim England’s Value of Swimming research finding that compared to non-swimmers, open water swimmers felt 8.9 per cent happier.

She said: “Swimming saves the NHS and social care system over £357 million every single year by managing a number of health conditions. The great outdoors and wild swimming has an even greater impact on your mental health.

“There’s something about swimming outdoors that makes the difference, its being out in nature, out in the open, it seriously impacts your mental health in a positive way.”

“It was incredibly popular during lockdown because you couldn’t swim indoors, so the pool swimmers ended up going outdoors because if you’re a swimmer, you have to find somewhere to go and swim.”

Pleased to speak up on behalf of outdoor swimmers

Following the event, Jane added: “It is clear that the levels of pollution are completely unacceptable and I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak up today on behalf of outdoor swimmers.

“Swimmers should be able to enjoy the many health benefits of outdoor swimming without having to swim in polluted waterways, yet water companies continue to discharge untreated sewage into our rivers more than 1,000 times a day, impacting on wildlife, the environment and all river users.

“With the popularity of outdoor swimming continuing to rise this is more important than ever, but this data is not even made available to swimmers in real time, meaning that they can’t make an informed decision on whether or not to get in the water.

“We need to see much more progress and greater urgency from the water companies on this issue.

“We’re calling for an end to sewage pollution as part of the #EndSewagePollution coalition, for an increase in the number of officially designated bathing waters in the UK and for improvements in the water quality.

“We will shortly be launching a pledge for others who are concerned about this issue to stand with us.”