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Discover the Latest Live Storm Overflow Maps

Earlier this May, several water companies, including Anglian Water, have launched their own live storm overflow maps. This initiative marks a significant step forward in transparency and public awareness regarding water pollution incidents. 

In the early 1990s, water and sewerage companies were responsible for over 500 serious water pollution incidents a year. These incidents often resulted in substantial environmental damage, affecting wildlife, ecosystems, and public health. Over the past three decades, however, undeniable improvements have been made. Enhanced infrastructural investments, stricter regulatory monitoring, and technological advancements have collectively contributed to reducing the frequency and severity of such incidents. By 2021, the number of serious water pollution incidents caused by water companies had dropped to 62.  

Despite this progress, the occurrence of 62 serious pollution incidents remains a significant concern. Each spill represents a potential hazard to the environment and public health. Over the last few years, public awareness and media interest in water pollution events have increased significantly. This heightened awareness has been driven by various factors, including high-profile pollution incidents, growing environmental consciousness, and increased advocacy by environmental organisations. Consequently, there has been a surge in public pressure demanding more accessible data and greater transparency from water companies regarding the use of storm overflows. 

Since 2010, water companies have been responsible for self-monitoring their water recycling sites. This self-regulation has been a point of contention, with critics arguing that independent oversight is necessary to ensure accuracy and accountability. In response to these concerns and in an effort to enhance transparency, the Environment Act 2021 introduced new requirements for water companies. One of the key mandates of this act is that water companies must report on storm overflow discharges within an hour of them starting. This real-time reporting aims to provide the public with timely and accurate information about potential water pollution events. 

To comply with the Environment Act 2021 and to address public concerns, several water companies have begun releasing live storm overflow maps. Last year, the Rivers Trust collaborated with Thames Water to release the first live overflow map. This pioneering initiative set a precedent for other water companies to follow. In May 2024, many other water companies, including Anglian Water, have launched their own live storm overflow maps. 

Anglian Water, which supplies sewerage services throughout Essex and Suffolk, is among the companies that have now released a live Storm Overflow Map. This map provides real-time information about storm overflows, accounting for all overflows and not just those affecting bathing water sites. The map is designed to be user-friendly, allowing the public to easily access information about spills in their area. 

Current maps only show when and for how long overflows are in use. While this information is valuable, it does not provide a complete picture of the impact of these spills on waterways. To effectively understand the environmental and health implications of these spills, additional data is needed. Specifically, information on the contents of the spill and the volume of the discharge would be required. Such data would help to assess the potential toxicity and ecological impact of the spills. Moreover, incorporating weather conditions into the data would provide a more comprehensive understanding of the factors contributing to sewage spills. 

Environmental organisations and advocates hope that these additional data points will be included in future updates of the storm overflow maps. Providing comprehensive data on storm overflows into our waters would greatly enhance the public’s ability to understand and respond to water pollution incidents. It would also facilitate better decision-making by policymakers, regulators, and water companies, ultimately leading to improved water quality and environmental protection. 

How to view the storm overflow maps

For those interested in exploring the live storm overflow maps, a list of all the companies that have released these maps can be found on the Rivers Trust website. This resource provides an overview of the current state of transparency among water companies and highlights areas where further improvements are needed. Additionally, the Rivers Trust also has their own sewage map that includes the 2023 annual summary data for sewage spills in England and Wales. 

You can access the Anglian Water Storm Overflow Map, to find the overflows nearest to you. By staying informed about storm overflows, the public can play a crucial role in advocating for cleaner waterways and holding water companies accountable for their environmental responsibilities. 

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The topics below represent the pressures that many waterbodies in the Combined Essex catchment face. They have been divided into six main categories, but it is quite often that these categories can overlap as pressures relate to each other.

Diffuse pollution occurs as water moves across the land or through the ground and picks pollutants. These pollutants can come from a variety of places, including urban and field run off. The pollutants that enter the river can range from sediment to toxins to excess nutrients, meaning that diffuse pollution can cause a whole range of different issues. The variety in these pressure groups means that it is something that can be quite difficult to tackle. It requires groups of people, business and stakeholders to work together in order to solve this problem.

Fish should be able to travel up and down a river freely, allowing them to move and breed in the most suitable habitats for them. It is important that fish populations do not become isolated, as this makes them more susceptible to disease and puts pressure on their survival. Unfortunately, there are often many barriers along rivers that prevent fish from being able to migrate up and down stream. Where barriers have been identified, they will be seen as a ‘pressure’ on a waterbody. Thankfully, there are many solutions now that can be put in place to aid fish passage, even over large barriers.

The flow in a river can vary greatly throughout the year as rainfall and run off can have an effect. This is a natural process. It is when flow is impacted by non-natural processes that it can cause problems. Sometimes, water can be intercepted or removed from a system; this will reduce the flow, therefore changing the habitat conditions. Some species are happy in high energy rivers. This means that when flow is reduced, these species will no longer survive. The opposite of this can occur when excess water is entering a river, for example through increased runoff. Low energy systems then become high energy and displace the species that live there.

A species that is not meant to be found in a particular area is known as an invasive species. Invasive species can be from a different habitat or a different country altogether. Most of the invasive species that we find on our rivers have come from other countries – plants that people have imported for their gardens or animals that have been released for food or by animal rights activists. Control of invasive species requires a lot of time and effort. We are fortunate that we do have a range of methods to manage most of the invasive species that cause havoc on our rivers, but there are still some which we are still struggling to control.

Many of our rivers have been heavily modified over the years as rivers have been used for a wide range of purposes. Physical modification is one of the biggest factors that causes our rivers to be unhealthy. The issues that it can cause range from reducing habitat, preventing migration of mobile species, and even have an effect on the water quality. Where structures and modifications are no longer in use or necessary, they should be removed to allow the river to regain its natural state. Unfortunately, this action is not always taken which means that many of our rivers are over straightened and contain redundant structures. It is possible to return a lot of our rivers to their natural state, through one off projects, but in other cases it is not possible as the river has been changed to protect assets or manage flooding. It is recognised that some modifications cannot be removed without having severe negative impacts both socially and economically.

This is pollution that comes from a single identifiable source. The pollution entering the river could include a whole range of pollutants. Some point source pollution is known about and licences, for example sewage treatment works. Other sources are not licensed, and therefore work needs to be done with landowners to fix the problems that are allowing the pollution to enter the river. Point source pollution is more easily controlled than diffuse pollution as it often only takes one management approach to solve the issue.