Petition for river bathing status

Surfers Against Sewage calls for official river bathing waters

Over 51,000 people have signed Surfers Against Sewage’s petition calling for official river bathing spots to help tackle sewage pollution

On Tuesday 18 October, environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage submitted a petition to Defra with over 51,000 signatures calling for 200 designated river bathing waters by 2030.

Community groups joined Surfers Against Sewage in London to hand in the petition ahead of the bathing water applications for 2023 deadline at the end of October.

A risk to human health

The campaign gained traction after findings showing that raw sewage was discharged into rivers 430,000 times in England and Wales in 2021. Surfers Against Sewage’s citizen science research suggests that 75 per cent of rivers tested would be classified as ‘poor’ under the current testing regime, posing a serious risk to human health. Only 14 per cent of UK rivers currently meet ‘good ecological status’ with none passing chemical tests, suggesting pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture is having a huge impact on river quality.

The charity says that pollution from sewage discharges, agricultural run-off and chemicals are putting the population at risk of illnesses such as gastroenteritis, E.coli, ear, nose and throat infections and eye infections.

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns & Policy at Surfers Against Sewage, says: “Today, we handed in the demands of thousands of ocean activists to government, calling for an explosion in the number of official bathing waters. This is a vital first step towards a future of thriving rivers and beaches, free from sewage pollution. The public have spoken and now the the government must listen, act, and end sewage pollution for good.”

Find out more Surfers Against Sewage at Read our guide to how to spot a clean river for wild swimming.

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Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.