Sewage overspills have been hitting the headlines with increasing frequency over the last few years, with raw waste discharged into rivers, lakes and streams across the UK and Ireland on a daily basis.
As climate change brings with it more frequent and more intense extreme weather events, the sewer system is likely to be overwhelmed more often. Raw sewage overspill that lands directly into rivers and the sea can cause water pollution. The end result is environmental deterioration and human health hazards, which can have knock-on effects for leisure and tourism, as well as seafood consumption.
New research from Imperial College London has found that the recent increase in sewage overspill events is down to the fact that down to capacity issues in wastewater treatment works, which are struggling in the face of rising population numbers and more intensive industrial activities,
causing these infrastructures currently unable to keep up with demand. The water industry need to demonstrate the need for capital investment in infrastructure to replace the country’s ageing sewage systems.
Between 2000 and 2008, just over one per cent of the sewers across England and Wales were replaced or upgraded. If this rate of replacement continues, given that most of the UK’s infrastructure was only intended to last between 60 and 80 years, it would take 800 years for all sewers to be replaced.