Annual data is no longer good enough, says the Rivers Trust as they add near real-time data to their Sewage Map. But only one water company has released suitable data.
The Rivers Trust has added a layer to its interactive Sewage Map to show near-real time alerts of raw sewage discharges and is now calling for all water companies to make that real-time data publicly available.
The layer shows which combined sewer overflows (CSOs) are discharging at any given moment, as well as those that have discharged within the last 48 hours. However, only data from Thames Water is currently available.
All water companies must make real-time discharge data public
Thanks to a late push from environmental campaigners, the 2021 Environment Act stipulated that all English water companies must publish real-time alerts of sewage discharges into waterways, but it didn’t set a deadline for doing so. Currently, the only water company to have shared live data in a widely accessible format is Thames Water.
“We’ve seen the power of open data in recent years as people have woken up to the reality of sewage pollution, but annual summaries are no longer good enough,” said David Johnson, Technical Director for The River Trust.
“In the interests of transparency, we’re calling on all water companies to urgently provide real-time data on sewage discharges. This will not only allow the public to make informed decisions about safe river recreation, but also will help those of us working in the water sector understand how the sewerage system is being managed.”
Sewage pollution is an issue close to people’s hearts
Seeing when sewage discharges are actually happening would also allow for comparisons against things like weather and groundwater conditions, which are often cited as reasons for combined sewer overflows being used so regularly. It would also add to an evidence base that drives the large suite of investment in the sewage and wastewater system that was brought forward in the government’s recently announced Plan for Water.
“It’s clear that sewage pollution has become an issue close to people’s hearts. It is having a detrimental impact on our precious river environments and is even affecting how people vote across the country,” said Tessa Wardley, Director of Communications & Advocacy. “If politicians are serious about tackling the issue and water companies are serious about regaining public trust, we need to have full transparency on when CSOs are being used – real-time data gives us that, it needs to be published and in a format that we can interrogate as a matter of urgency.”