Here’s how Labour will tackle sewage spills in UK rivers and seas

A photograph of brown water coming out of a sewage pipe

Britain’s waterways have become an open sewer thanks to the Tories’ hands-off approach.

The Tories are turning a blind eye to illegal sewage dumping putting thousands of people in hospital, and are allowing water companies to dump sewage in Britain’s most famous landscapes and National Parks, including the Lake District and New Forest.

Water bosses responsible for this horrific failure have brazenly awarded themselves over £25 million in bonuses and incentives since the last election.

The Tory sewage crisis is destroying our countryside, trashing nature, damaging tourism and putting kids’ health at risk.

Labour’s plan will stop the bonuses, tackle failing water companies, and protect Britain’s beautiful holiday spots.

How much sewage is dumped in our waters?

Last year was the worst for sewage spills since records began according to Environment Agency data. Sewage was discharged for an eye watering record 3.6 million hours across England in 2023.

The number of sewage discharges has skyrocketed by 54%, from over 464,092 sewage spills in 2023, compared to 301,291 in 2022.

The latest figures show the number of bathing waters in England receiving a classification of “poor” were at their highest since 2015.

How sewage pollution is affecting people’s health

The number of people admitted to hospital for water-borne diseases has skyrocketed by two-thirds under the Tories as sewage continues to pollute Britain’s rivers, lakes and seas.

Cases of water borne diseases – including dysentery and Weil’s disease – have increased by nearly 60% since 2010.

Analysis of NHS hospital admissions statistics reveal that the number of people admitted to hospital with diseases transmitted via water-borne infection has increased from 2,085 people in 2010/11 to 3,286 in 2022/23.

Labour’s plan to stop sewage polluting our rivers and seas

Labour will put the water companies under special measures to clean up our waters.

Under Labour’s tough plans, Ofwat could have blocked six out of nine water bosses’ bonuses last year because of severe levels of illegal pollution.

Labour has pledged to put failing water companies under tough special measures to force them to clean up their toxic mess and protect people’s health.

This includes: 

  • Giving the water regulator powers to block the payment of any bonuses until water bosses have cleaned up their filth. We don’t need the dither and delay of a consultation; we need immediate action. 
  • Water bosses who oversee repeated law-breaking will face criminal charges.
  • Ending self-monitoring and forcing all companies to monitor every single water outlet under independent supervision so companies can no longer cover up illegal sewage dumping. 
  • Introducing severe and automatic fines that water companies can’t afford to ignore for illegal sewage discharges.

Our missions

Part of our mission to switch on Great British Energy

Let's turn the page on Tory failure

Find out more
Keir Starmer talking with factory workers