Friday, September 29, 2023
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Water Companies in Hot Water as Surfers ‘Paddle Out’ Protest

A wave of protesters on surfboards and paddleboards surged at Brighton’s West Pier yesterday, demonstrating against the release of untreated sewage into the region’s waters by companies, most notably Southern Water.

This maritime demonstration, orchestrated by the environmental advocacy group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), captured widespread attention. Protesters, adorned with gas masks, costume attire, and holding message-bearing placards, paddled out into the water, marking the largest national demonstration of its kind yet.

The call to “cut the crap” echoed from 12 key bathing locations across the UK, including South Bay in Scarborough, Penarth Pier Pavilion, and Portobello Beach in Edinburgh.

This marine protest was fuelled by a staggering figure of 301,091 sewage discharges recorded in 2022, pointing to what SAS perceives as the chronic mismanagement by water companies. As the public’s demand for accountability intensifies, Water UK, the sector’s trade body, unveiled a £10 billion blueprint to reduce sewage discharge volumes. However, the announcement was tempered by a warning of inevitable hikes in water bills to cover this colossal expense.

The results of a recent survey disclosed by SAS underscore the issue, with trust in water companies scraping a low 21% among UK adults. In a telling revelation, the survey found 85% of participants supported the banning of bonuses for company CEOs who fall short of basic environmental benchmarks.

SAS is campaigning for the reduction of sewage discharges by 90% by 2030. To rally public support, they’ve initiated an online petition named “Dirty Money England,” which has already won the backing of over 114,000 signatories. The petition can be found at and is a significant part of the charity’s broader initiative advocating for cleaner water and stronger environmental obligations.

The successful turnout at this distinctive protest, combined with the growing public spotlight on this issue, sends a clear message of the escalating public demand for cleaner oceans and heightened corporate responsibility. With the summer season on the horizon, whether water companies will respond effectively to curtail pollution and regain public confidence remains to be seen.

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