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Six of 10 top sewage discharges in UK found in Wales

18 Sep 2023 5 minute read
Raw sewage. Effluent discharge pipe.

Emily Price

Six of the top 10 areas in the UK with the most sewage discharges into rivers and waterways were located in Wales last year.

The information obtained by the Welsh Liberal Democrats revealed that sewage was dumped into Welsh waterways for more than 300,000 hours in 2022.

The 6 Welsh constituencies included in the UK top ten in rank order were:

  1. Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
  2. Dwyfor Meirionnydd
  3. Preseli Pembrokeshire
  4. Ogmore
  5. Ceredigion
  6. Brecon and Radnorshire

Carmarthen East and South Pembrokeshire came in at 11.

Earlier this year, Natural Resources Wales downgraded Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to a two-star rating after it was found that the company was responsible for 89 sewage pollution incidents in 2022.

Natural Resources Wales has pressed the company to improve its number of self-reporting incidents after it was revealed Dŵr Cymru only self-reported two out of four incidents last year – compared with six out of eight incidents in 2021.

In April, the not for profit water company increased its price average to £499 a year making it the second highest in Wales and England.

“Bad news”

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds MS said: “It’s disgraceful that six out of the 10 areas with the most sewage discharges into rivers were in Wales last year. That’s bad news for our environment, wildlife, and all those who enjoy our rivers.

“The Conservatives in Westminster have refused to take action against river pollution, and Labour Ministers in Cardiff Bay have failed to step and take Dwr Cymru to task on our polluted rivers and rising water bills.

“It’s time for a shakeup and Labour Ministers in Cardiff Bay must get to grips with Dwr Cymru’s failure to protect our rivers.”

Cefin Campbell, Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales whose constituency is included in the top ten list branded the current state of Welsh waterways an “unacceptable situation”.

Mr Campbell said: “The fact that Mid & West Wales features so prominently in this list is a cause of significant alarm and concern. However, for many residents who live in close proximity to the Wye, Tywi and Teifi to name only a few, this latest data will sadly come as little surprise – with the deterioration in water quality, and its impact on our ecosystems clear for all to see.

“Plaid Cymru has consistently called for Wales to have full control over its water resources to better address the scourge of sewage in our waterways – and this latest data displays how desperately the current model is failing our waters.

“It’s clear the current situation is unsustainable and Wales needs to be granted our constitutional right to power over water, so we can act to address this unacceptable situation.”


A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Wales is recognised internationally as having some of the best beaches and water quality in Europe.

“However, we understand that discharges from storm overflows still have a devastating impact on those wanting to enjoy our waters – ensuring our water is of the highest quality is a vital part of making Wales a prosperous, happy and healthy place to live.

“We work closely with and support the water company regulators, Ofwat, Natural Resources Wales and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, to monitor performance and to deliver their compliance functions.

“Our action plan to tackle storm overflows was published as part of Wales Better River Quality Taskforce which seeks to work in partnership with water companies and regulators to drive local solutions in an integrated way focussing on nature based solutions. ”


A Dwr Cymru spokesperson said: “Only 9% of rivers in Wales are classified as having  “poor” or “bad” ecological status and our rivers are significantly better than in England. We are committed to improving the quality of our rivers and are targeting where investment will have the biggest environmental impact.

“We have monitors on over 99.5% of our overflows – more than many other companies – and we are always open with this information by publishing it on our website and report the number of spills to our environmental regulators.  As a country on the western side of the UK, we have some of the highest levels of rainfall and are seeing an increase in severe events linked to climate change. All of this means we have one of the highest numbers of storm overflows of any water company and that the number of times they operate is heavily influenced by these factors.

“Customers bills have been higher for those who live in coastal areas as greater investment has been needed since privatisation to treat wastewater to improve river quality – whereas inland companies didn’t have to make similar investments. Our investment to date in our wastewater system has delivered real improvements and helped ensure 85% of coastal bathing waters in Wales meet excellent water quality standard and Wales has over a quarter of the UK’s Blue Flag beaches while only having 15% of the coastline.

“Earlier this year we published our Manifesto for Rivers in Wales which outlines how we will be investing in our wastewater network, particularly around rivers in Special Areas of Conservation. This includes an additional £140m to be invested by 2025.”

“Our Manifesto can be viewed on our website here.“

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago

Hoodwinked all these years by Dwr Cymru…

Jason Bowen
Jason Bowen
9 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Dŵr Cymru lied for years about being community/publically run and owned …. it was always under the same board of directors as NatWest bank!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
9 months ago
Reply to  Jason Bowen

We are a gullible lot, aren’t we…

9 months ago

Give them all big bonuses.

Mr Walrus
Mr Walrus
9 months ago

Dwr Cymru – “For Wales not for profit”. Yeah, right! Turns out that “Neither for profit, nor for Wales” is nearer the truth….

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