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Moving beyond the usual smoke and mirrors of corporate ethics toward cleaner water.

We featured water in our last newsletter and here we are again, it is an on-going issue. Recent news in the UK have shown, how governments fail to act till too late. All over Europe and America the rivers, lakes and coastal waters are being poisoned by industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, contaminated wastewater, and human and animal faeces. These problems have been highlighted by the increase in rainfall. 

Modern sewers installed since the 1960s contain two pipes to keep separate the sewage collected from homes and businesses and the rainwater falling in built-up areas. However, because most of the sewer systems are combined, the separated rainwater pipe is at times still connected to the combined sewerage system. There are around 100,000km of combined sewers in England.

Usually, the network of sewers takes the wastewater to a sewage treatment works where it is treated and returned to rivers and streams and eventually to the sea. In certain situations, the water companies are allowed to release untreated sewerage in the inland waters directly. This water is called overflow discharge. It is here that we enter into the usual smoke and mirrors of corporate ethics.

Since the companies are virtual monopolies and competition is limited. The prices companies can charge their customers are controlled and regulated by Ofwat. This is the regulatory agency that reviews price limits. These regulations are set every five years, and as a result, new water company investment is planned in five-year cycles. The next price review period is not until 2025–2030.

These private companies have paid out a total of £965 million in shareholders dividends and the CEO’s have taken home £16 million in pay over the 2021/22 financial year. These pay-outs have been made while the outdated infrastructure continues to deteriorate. 

While some rake in the cash, the UK is ranked last in Europe for bathing water quality. Raw sewage was discharged in waterways 399,864 time in 2022.  There are now 75 rivers that pose a serious risk to human health. 

This chemical cocktail of pollutants not only harms aquatic plant and animal life, but it also ends up in the sea where it contributes to algae blooms that starve the water of oxygen. The damage to human health is serious as well, putting water users at risk. Harmful illnesses including viruses and antimicrobial resistant bacteria are common features of this toxic water. 


  • Use a water filter. There are many on the market, review one that is right for you. Even the simple countertop versions are better than nothing.
  • Check on your local water system and see how it rates. If there are problems write and let them know you are not impressed.
  • Check local rivers and coastline for contamination. There are published reports on pollution. If the waters are not safe don’t let your children swim in them.
  • Support local organizations that lobby for clean water.

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