Sewage discharge poured into Bucks waterways for over 12,000 hours last year, new figures show

There were over 1,000 separate incidents of pollution in the county in 2022
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Sewage discharges have polluted rivers in Buckinghamshire 1,104 times in the last year, according to official data.

The water industry has been under widespread pressure from the public and the government to clean up its performance after recording almost 400,000 sewage dumping incidents in England and Wales in 2022, adding up to 3.3 million hours of pollution pouring into the country’s waterways. Interactive maps with figures for the whole country can be found here.

In the Buckingham constituency alone, there were 1,034 incidents last year, totalling 12,318 hours of pollution. Aylesbury had two incidents, totalling 7.3 hours.

Dirty water flows from a pipe into a river (Photo: water flows from a pipe into a river (Photo:
Dirty water flows from a pipe into a river (Photo:

The industry has committed to making changes. Earlier this year Water UK, the industry regulator, apologised on behalf of companies for “not acting quickly enough” to tackle sewage spills and announced a multi-billion-pound investment plan to upgrade the country’s crumbling Victorian sewage system.

Cornwall was found to have experienced the greatest total number of discharges with 11,285, totalling 78,775 hours, followed by Carmarthenshire with 11,195 discharges, totalling 86,603 hours and County Durham with 9,940 discharges, totalling 33,486 hours.

Why is data not available for 2023?

For those looking to take a dip in their local river or sea, finding out how clean the water is can be a challenge.

Pollution in a river. (Photo: in a river. (Photo:
Pollution in a river. (Photo:

Currently only Thames Water and South West Water publish real-time information on sewage discharges but, after major campaigning efforts, all of England’s private water companies will publish real-time online data on sewage pollution spills by the end of this year.

Environmental campaigners at The Rivers Trust said it is “absolutely vital" that the data is published in a way that is accessible to the public.

A spokesperson said: “We want to see it all in one place, and with enough detail for people to see what’s happening on their nearest river or watercourse."

Water UK, the body that represents the UK’s water industry, said that investment was happening to fix the larger issue of sewage discharge.

Sewage drains from a pipe into a river (Photo: drains from a pipe into a river (Photo:
Sewage drains from a pipe into a river (Photo:

They said: “We recognise that more should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner.

“We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right. Over the next seven years, water and sewerage companies plan to spend £10 billion on the biggest transformation of our sewers since the Victorian era.”A Defra spokesperson said: “Our ambitious Plan for Water sets out the increased investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation needed to clean up our waterways.

"We have recently confirmed £1.1 billion in new, accelerated investment to tackle storm overflows.

“We have driven up the number of storm overflows monitored across the network, from just seven per cent in 2010 to 91 per cent now monitored. Under the Environment Act, water companies must improve transparency by reporting on discharges from storm overflows in near real-time by March 2025.

“We have also set the strictest targets ever on water companies to reduce sewage discharges through our Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which will drive the largest infrastructure programme in their history – an estimated £56 billion in capital investment over the next 25 years, driving more improvements.”