Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill
Philip Dunne MP by the River Teme in Ludlow

Philip Dunne MP by the River Teme in Ludlow

Water companies are licensed to spill. This is ruining habitats and risks endangering public health. It has got to stop.

Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP

I have introduced this Bill to the House of Commons to help make a vital start towards changing behaviour and practice to clean up our rivers.

The Private Member's Bill is now expected to have its Second Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 22 January 2021. I have been working with supportive NGOs and charities all seeking together to improve the water quality of our rivers for us to enjoy and to improve the habitat for the aquatic species that depend upon them.

There are quite simply too many places where untreated human sewage routinely pollutes our waterways. Water companies are licensed to spill. This is ruining habitats and risks endangering public health. It has got to stop.

The Bill is supported by: 

The Rivers Trust, The Angling Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, Wildlife Trusts, Wildlife & Countryside Link, RSPB, Salmon & Trout Conservation, Freshwater Habitats, Bug Life, Waterkeeper Alliance, London Waterkeeper, Windrush Against Pollution, Sewage Free Swimmers, Blue Marine Foundation, Outdoor Swimming Society, British Canoeing, Royal Lifesaving Society, Marinet UK, and the Institute of Fisheries Management.

How you can help - ask your MP to support the Bill

Surfers Against Sewage have set up a tool to help you write to your MP to ask them to support the Bill when it comes before Parliament on 15 January 2021.

You can access that here:

Summary of the Bill

For a good summary of the Bill, read Environmental Law News Update by – Charles Morgan, Christopher Badger and Mark Davies of Six Pump Court Chambers.

The Bill

The Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill places a duty on water companies to ensure that untreated sewage is not discharged into rivers and other inland waters. The Bill will require water companies to set out plans progressively to reduce their reliance on combined sewer overflows (CSOs). It proposes increasing levels of transparency, as firms will be mandated to report publicly not just on the frequency and extent of sewage discharges from CSOs and any other sewer catchment assets, but also on the impact on water quality as this is enabled by advances in technology.

The Bill also proposes measures to upgrade drainage infrastructure to separate household sewage from surface water drainage, helping reduce the risk of overspills. It includes measures to reduce harmful products such as non-biodegradable wet wipes, commercial fats and oils from being disposed down the drains. It also proposes measures to expand the number of inland bathing waters and establish targets to increase those classified as “good” or “excellent”.

Download a copy of the Bill

Explanatory Notes

Download a copy of the Explanatory Notes

In the Media

WWT Online – ‘Multilateral support for rivers bill is heartening’

The Guardian – ‘George Eustice says water firms must cut sewage releases into rivers and sea’

The Guardian – ‘Cross-party bloc of MPs back action on sewage discharge into rivers’

The Telegraph – ‘Wild swimmers boosted by Bill to stop sewage entering rivers’ (Click for print version)

Shropshire Live – ‘Philip Dunne MP launches new Bill to tackle river pollution’

Shropshire Star – ‘Shropshire MP publishes ‘ambitious’ Bill to clean UK rivers’

Water Briefing – ‘Philip Dunne MP launches new Bill to tackle river pollution’  

Conservative Home – ‘Philip Dunne: Why I’ve tabled a Bill to clean up Britain’s rivers’

ENDS Report – ‘‘Licence to spill’: EAC chair launches bill to stop water firms polluting rivers with raw sewage’

Environmental Law News Update – Charles Morgan, Christopher Badger and Mark Davies consider the new Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill 2019-21

CIWEM website – ‘Dunne plans two bids to tackle sewage pollution in rivers


WaterBriefing website – ‘New report warns water companies “still routinely discharge” raw sewage into UK waters’

Times Radio – Alexis Conran interviews Feargal Sharkey, Prof Peter Hammond and Philip Dunne MP.

Times Radio – Alexis Conran interviews Environment Minister Lord Zac Goldsmith.

Salmon and Trout Conservation – Philip Dunne MP launches new Bill to tackle river pollution