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Want to Go For a Swim at UK Beaches? Swim the Other Way

Due to the discharge of raw sewage 83 beaches in the UK have been deemed unsafe to swim at.

In 2015 the United Nations Department of Public Information proposed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)s. These goals are due to run from 2015-2030 and are pursued by all United Nations Members. They aim for

As one of the founding members of the United Nations the UK is included in this.

Life Below Water is one of the 17 goals and aims to 'conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development'. Looking at the current state of beaches and bodies of water in the UK brings into question how seriously our government taking this goal.

What Are The Pollution Problems?

Our sewage systems date back to Victorian times, when they were designed to carry excess sewage into the sea after heavy rainfall to prevent blocked pipes. Water companies are frequently incriminated for using this system to empty untreated excrement unnecessarily into the sea as well as not improving the system to accommodate population growth. This means that the system can't accommodate the escalation of excrement so needs to get rid of 'excess' sewage more regularly.

The opener statistic was taken from the Surfers Against Sewage webpage who highlights our need for the ocean in order to thrive. They say our seas are being choked by plastic and water companies are treating them like an open sewer. Surfers Against Sewage provides a platform on which people can have a positive impact and be educated.

A prime example of our sewage problem is demonstrated in the Save Windermere campaign. Lake Windermere is one England's largest lakes and is a popular spot for open-water swimming hosting large events such as the Great North Swim. The campaign was founded by Matt Staniek in 2021 when he discovered sewage being pumped directly into Lake Windermere. Among the obvious threat of human health, the sewage results in disproportionately high nutrient levels; these levels increase algae growth of a limited number of species and deoxygenates the water which has a negative effect on its aquatic animals. The Save Windermere campaign is demanding all treated and untreated sewage being pumped into Windermere be stopped.

An ironical side note= the Great North Swims main sponsor is Arla, the largest producer of dairy products in the UK- dairy manufacturers are one of the major polluters of our waters.

Another side to water pollution is the plastic that wreaks havoc on our marine ecosystems. Scientists believe approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic entered the ocean in 2010. Plastics are the most common form of marine debris and once in the water they never completely biodegrade, they just turn into microplastics. 100,000 marine animals are killed by ingesting or getting trapped in plastic each year. And that is only the ones we find, what about the many more gathered at the bottom of the sea? Microplastics are also damaging to humans. They are deeply integrated into our food systems and when ingested science has found they can cause damage to cell walls, allergic responses and cell death.

Our water supplies affect everything from activities we enjoy to the food we eat. It is within our best interests to do something about it and it is manageable; we have seen through COVID what we can do when we are in crisis. Our oceans and water systems are in a crisis now, we need to act.

What Can Be Done?

Reduce your plastic use -being aware of your use of plastic and change your habits by reducing your single-use plastic items or reusing them.

Take part in clean-ups- walking along the beach or the side of the road collecting the litter is a great way of reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans. There are multiple organised events that do this around the UK.

Sign petitions and support campaigns- supporting campaigns like Save Windermere even if it is just through following them on social media because it increases their publicity. They are a great way of educating the population and donating to them aids the cause.

Email your local MPs.

Do your own research and share what you find.


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