Support for sewage warning idea

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
May 10, 2011, 7:10 PM GMT+0

There is substantial support among the British public for the idea of a warning system which would alert beach users to a sewage spill into coastal waters, our poll has found.

  • 94% feel that bathers have a right to know when raw sewage is let out into bathing waters
  • 89% believe that water companies should inform bathers when raw sewage is released, even if they think it poses no danger to public health
  • 85% think that water companies should be brought under freedom of information laws on subjects like this, meaning that the public would be able to obtain detailed information from them (unlike now)
  • 64% feel that water companies have probably not done enough to upgrade systems which allow them to pump raw sewage into waterways after heavy rainfall overwhelms their usual systems, and say that more expensive water is an acceptable price to pay
  • Compared to only 16% who think that water companies have probably done enough, given how rare it is that heavy rainfall forces them to pump sewage into the sea

The poll results come as campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) launches an alert system which will allow beach users to receive ‘real-time sewage alerts’ should raw sewage be pumped into their local beach waters. The users include families with children playing on the sand, to high-level and professional surfers anxious to make full use of the waves without risking infections, stomach bugs or worse ‒ and it is this latter group behind wider surfing campaign ‘Protect Our Waves’, whose launch of the cross-county warning system is in conjunction with three large water companies across the country, namely South-West, Welsh and Southern.

The advertising campaign, showing top surfers covered in (false) excrement, and rubbish, was created by M&C Saatchi. Executive creative director Graham Fink told the Independent newspaper that the seaside is not ‘quintessentially British with fresh air sea and sand. Lurking under the surface are hidden horrors…we wanted to show the problem in an arresting way’.

See the survey details and full results (part of our latest Sunday Times poll)