Pollution of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters is a pressing concern and a major challenge for biodiversity.
What’s going on?
Pollution creates excess nutrients which cause algal blooms and reduced oxygen levels in the water. It adds pathogens, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and other toxic materials to the water.
All of this endangers aquatic life and impacts the diversity and strength of ecological communities nearby.
Sewage systems are dealing with volumes of waste they were never designed for. But they are not the sole cause of pollution – in fact, agriculture is a much larger source of pollution in British rivers.
- 10% of our river species face extinction, including the Atlantic salmon and European eel, and 60% are in decline. 
- Every single river in England is polluted beyond legal limits and in Wales, 56% of rivers fail to meet ‘good ecological status’. 
- Since 1995 some of the worst pollutants from the water sector in our rivers have been cut dramatically: ammonia levels are down 70% and phosphates down 60%. 
- Serious water pollution incidents have been cut by nearly two-thirds, from 765 in 2002 to 266 in 2019. 
Get nature positive
Wastewater is generally treated to the very highest standards in the UK. But there are challenges.
Treatment requires a large amount of energy, which itself has consequences for nature. Sewage works can sometimes struggle to cope with the effects of climate change and rapidly growing populations.
Sewage networks can often be clogged up by the flushing away of wet wipes, nappies, and other products never designed to be flushed away, causing sewer flooding and pollution. Rainwater can inundate sewage networks, leading to untreated (albeit heavily diluted) wastewater ending up in rivers. Industry estimates indicate that water sector discharges from storm overflows comprise 85 percent rainwater.
However, there are solutions to these challenges.
Inspired by steps leading water companies are already taking, we’ve compiled some suggested actions to help you on your journey to nature positivity.
Actions for nature