How have we managed to let our once beautiful waterways become so filthy and full of raw sewage?

It’s so bad even the Boat Race teams are being warned not to throw each other into the River Thames this year!

According to the campaign group, River Action UK, rowers are at risk of diarrhoea, sepsis, and kidney failure because of rising E Coli levels in the Thames. Truly shocking but no great surprise.

The news broke this week that sewage spills into England’s rivers and seas by water companies more than doubled last year.

The Environment Agency says there were 3.6million hours of spills compared to 1.75million hours in 2022.

East Anglian Daily Times: Some bicycles found in the River GippingSome bicycles found in the River Gipping (Image: Mark Murphy)

It works out that on average last year there were 1,271 spills a day across England, compared to 825 in 2022.

Some of the highest rises in the hours of raw sewage pouring into our waterways was from Anglian Water with an increase of 205%.

Instead of wasting our money on pointless TV adverts they could be spending it on stopping these spills or improving our ancient drains which seem to flood after just a shower these days.

These spills usually occur when we have heavy rainfall and are designed to stop sewage backing up into people’s homes and with climate change, we’re going to see this happening even more unless something is done.

It’s all because the UK has combined sewage systems which mean rain and sewage share the same pipes, so if there is too much rain, sewage treatment works can be overwhelmed.

These spills contain human waste, sanitary products, wet wipes cotton buds and all sorts of things people flush down the loo.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark is horrified at the state of the waterways in SuffolkMark is horrified at the state of the waterways in Suffolk (Image: Mark Murphy)

These items pose a serious risk to swimmers and anyone else who uses the waterways like canoeists or fisherman.

Contact with polluted water can cause eye infections, skin infections and in some severe cases even death.

The impact on wildlife is horrendous too, can you imagine spending your life living in water polluted by human excrement.

Officials from Water UK who are the industry body for sewage companies, are blaming the wrong sort of rain! They say the spills are “unacceptable”, but the increase is down to heavy rain.

I know it’s rained a lot, but I think the issue is down to decades of under investment by the privatised water companies themselves who’ve been more interested in paying shareholders massive dividends instead of spending more updating our Victorian drainage systems.

It’s been a licence to print money and who pays for this? Yup the consumer.

At least with gas and electric being privatised you have a choice to swap supplier which in theory should give you better deals but with water you have no choice.

If I’m unhappy with Anglian Water I can’t switch to another water provider, they’ve got the monopoly here with no competition.

The regulator Ofwat is seemingly unable to sort these companies out and is as wet as the water it’s meant to regulate. Ironically Thames Water, which is in all sorts of trouble, could end up being renationalised, perhaps it’s time to think about renationalising all of them.

We shouldn’t just take aim at the water companies, what about those of us who flush wet wipes and the like down the loo, it should only be the three Ps – pee, poo, and paper.

Litter gets washed into our waterways too, so that fag end or crisp packet you drop might end up polluting our rivers or beaches.

A few years ago, I organised a clean-up of the River Gipping in Ipswich.

As well as hundreds of bits of fast-food litter we hauled out of the river over 50 shopping trolleys, a similar number of bicycles and three safes! All had been dumped into a river as a kid I used to fish and swim in, and I can tell you it was much cleaner then than it is now.

We really must do all we can to help Mother Nature before it’s too late – what legacy are we leaving our children and grandchildren?