Protecting British Waterways

In recent years there has been growing outrage at the state of British rivers. For example, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England more than 400,000 times in 2020, according to figures published by the Environment Agency. In this year untreated effluent, including human waste, wet wipes and condoms, was released into waterways for more than three million hours. In an attempt to tackle this, a proposal was put forward from the Lords to the Environment Bill, that would have placed legal duties on the companies to reduce discharges. MP’s voted not to pass this into law.

Since this decision by our government – members of Christian Climate Action have been taking a stand for our British waterways. For example, last week Rev Helen Burnett, facilitated over 90 people taking a stand against the appalling phosphate levels in the River Mole. She organised a demonstration walk along the Mole Trek between Leatherhead and Dorking.

Rev Helen said “The turn out of over 90 walkers, proves just how important the issue of clean rivers is to our local community. There were representatives from multiple local interest groups – from the open water swimmers, through to the Green Party, through to a local choir, who led us in song at our half way point. Along the way we met with others who were deeply concerned, including an angler, who had fished the river since he was 7 years old and has witnessed the decimation of the fish population.”

Rev Hilary Bond got involved in a protest that was taking place in her home town of Wareham. The protest involved erecting a plaque for her two local MPs. When explaining why she got involved in the protest, Hilary says “I grew up in Wareham and spent a lot of time with a child messing about on and in the river. We had a small boat in which I spent a lot of time with my dad; not often going anywhere, but usually sitting on the mooring painting something or fixing something or simply watching, hoping to see the Kingfisher in the willow tree opposite. I also played with friends in small rowing boats, swam in the water, and went through the rite of passage of jumping off Wareham bridge. I never really thought about the water.”

“I recently discovered that just above the place where we all used to swim – and were many children still do – there is a CSO (combined sewer outfall.) These are part of a much bigger sewage system, and if the rest of the system becomes blocked, they are the place where the sewage comes out so that other places like homes and businesses and roads don’t get flooded with raw sewage. I can see that they are very useful and that you never want your home to be flooded with sewage, but we don’t want it in our rivers, lakes and seas either. The two local MP’s (Wareham is right on the boundary) both voted to monitor sewage being discharged into waterways, but not to do anything about it. There are new technologies, some of them nature based, that would allow sewage to be stored and then made safe or reusable, but our MP’s don’t seem to want to look at those possibilities.”

“You may say that one little overflow in the river Frome in Wareham doesn’t make a significant difference, but there are 22,000 of these in the UK and many hundreds of thousands more across the world. All of creation is reliant on water; clean, unpolluted water. This is why I was part of putting up this plaque which I hope will challenge our MP’s to take action, and help other people to see that this needs to change.”