Calls for County Council to clean-up Gloucestershire’s Rivers

Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats leading calls for County Council to take the lead on cleaning up county’s filthy rivers.

Gloucestershire plays host to 28 rivers, including Britain’s longest and second longest waterways – the River Severn and the River Thames.  However many of these waterways are flooded with harmful pollutants including raw sewage discharges from water treatment operators, Severn Trent Water, Thames Water and Wessex Water.  

Water companies are only allowed to dump raw sewage in the most extreme of circumstances, yet last year the three companies operating in Gloucestershire discharged into English rivers for a combined 400,000 hours.

That is why Gloucestershire’s Liberal Democrats are bringing a motion to Full Council, on Wednesday 9 September, calling for this council to take a leading role in cleaning up our county’s rivers.

Ahead of the Full Council, proposer of the motion and Lib Dem Group Leader, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said:

“Gloucestershire’s rivers are the lifeblood of our natural world, yet for decades companies have been allowed to abuse them to the point that we’ve destroyed habitats and endangered public health.

“It is time we reversed this trend, which is why I’m calling on Gloucestershire County Council to take the lead with our local partners to monitor of our local waterways to uncover the extent of the damage.

“The Conservative Council has an opportunity to create a lasting legacy for our county, and I hope they do not pass up this opportunity!”

Seconder of the motion, Cllr Bernie Fisher, added:

“Following Spring’s lockdown and the loss of foreign holidays, more residents than ever are exploring our natural landscapes and waterways – which is only to be celebrated.

“Yet after decades of failure by successive Governments and agencies, Gloucestershire’s rivers are in an appalling state, largely due to unchecked discharges from water companies.

“This has to stop, and I look forward to seconding the motion aimed at cleaning up our county’s waterways for good.”




The text of the motion being brought by Cllr Hodgkinson and Cllr Fisher reads as follows:

This Council notes that:

  • Gloucestershire is fortunate to have 28 rivers running through our county, including the River Severn and River Thames, Britain’s longest and second longest rivers.
  • However, many of these waterways are flooded with harmful pollutants, including raw sewage discharges from water treatment operators Thames Water, Severn Trent and Wessex Water.
  • This pollution is causing extensive damage to the fragile ecosystems around our county.
  • It can also prove a serous public health concern for those residents living near rivers or using them for leisure activities; with pathogens able to cause serious illnesses.
  • Furthermore, traces of Covid-19 have been found in sewage outputs in global hotspots.

This Council recognises that dumping raw sewage into rivers is currently legal in extreme circumstances, but also recognises claims that the use of these measures has become routine for some operators.

This Council believes that the adverse impacts on the county’s waterways are unacceptable and that water treatment operators need to adjust their behaviour and invest more in the networks to avoid damaging our county’s public resources.

This council also believes that the county’s waterways are a resource that every resident should be confident in using safely, and that we should strive to have the country’s first designated bathing waters in rivers, which could bring great economic and social benefits to Gloucestershire.

This Council therefore resolves to

  • Call on the Cabinet to take urgent action with District Councils, the Environment Agency, local partners and communities to lead comprehensive monitoring of the county’s waterways to determine the extent of the damage caused by raw sewage and pollutants.
  • Call on the Cabinet to work with local partners, including The Rivers Trust and water treatment operators to promote better use of sewage facilities – recognising that everyone has a role to play in improving our waterways.
  • Write to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to ban the routine dumping of raw sewage into our rivers, with the ultimate aim of restoring our rivers to a state where we can safely swim in them and to protect their environment and biodiversity.

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