All of the sewage spills caused by storm overflows have been revealed in North Yorkshire, as the most recent data has been published. 

The data published by the Environment Agency (EA) reveal there were 77,761 sewage spills from monitored storm overflows in the Yorkshire Water area in 2023, as opposed to 54,273 in 2022.

The figures reveal the frequency and duration of spills from storm overflows, which dump untreated sewage into rivers and the sea, usually during heavy rainfall to stop sewers backing up, amid high levels of public concern and anger over the state of England’s waterways and beaches.

Both the frequency and duration of spills were also up on 2020 levels, which saw comparable amounts of rainfall.

The figures are at their highest-ever levels, although officials caution that comparisons over the years are difficult as an increasing number of storm overflows have been fitted with monitors over time, and all now have the technology to record spills.

Here are the mapped sewage spills from Yorkshire Water: 


In the Yorkshire Water patch, the average duration of sewage spills from monitored storm overflows indicates 6.6 hours was the average time, while the number of hours of sewage spills from monitored storm overflows amounted to 516,386 hours hours; up from 232,054 hours in 2022. 

Environment Agency director of water Helen Wakeham said the figures were “disappointing” but “sadly not surprising”.

“We are pleased to see record investment from the water sector, but we know it will take time for this to be reflected in spill data – it is a complex issue that won’t be solved overnight," she said.

The Northern Echo: A sewage spill caused by storm overflowA sewage spill caused by storm overflow

Alongside the Environment Agency's concern over the figures, campaigners have also highlighted their criticism of the most recent data. 

Giles Bristow, chief executive, Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Another year, another total s***show from the greedy, incompetent mess that is our water industry.

“With such large figures being thrown about it can be easy to become numb to the reality of the situation. But don’t fall for the spin – the deluge of s**t pouring into our rivers and seas is a generational scandal where a broken system, fuelled by greed, is causing catastrophic harm to lives, livelihoods and the natural world.

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​“With 464,056 discharges of untreated sewage last year in England, our spineless authorities must finally see the industry’s promises for the smokescreen that they are. No more stern words from lecterns and slaps on the wrist; it’s time for punishments that directly impact the industry’s bottom line and the profiteering decisions being made at the top."

Mr Bristow added: “Today's shocking figures will only fuel our fire to make 2024 the year when the tide finally turns on the sewage scandal. A cresting wave of public anger, a general election and water companies setting out their investment plans make this year a now-or-never moment for the campaign to end sewage pollution, and we’re not going to let it pass.

“We’re calling everyone to join our national day of action on Saturday 18th May where surfers, swimmers, anglers, and water lovers of all stripes will stand up in protest against the sewage polluters. This wave of paddle-out protests across the UK will show those in power, in no uncertain terms, we’re sick of your shit and you must act to end the sewage scandal now.”

Water minister Robbie Moore said: “I have been clear that sewage pollution in our waters is unacceptable, which is why in just the last few months we announced a consultation to ban water bosses’ bonuses when criminal breaches have occurred, quadrupled company inspections next year, fast-tracked £180 million investment to cut spills, launched a whistleblowing portal for water company workers to report breaches and will soon set out our plans to ban wet wipes containing plastic.

“We demanded that 100% of overflows were monitored by the end of last year as part of our drive to improve transparency.

“Today’s data shows water companies must go further and faster to tackle storm overflows and clean up our precious waterways.”

In response to the figures, a spokesperson for industry body Water UK said: “These results are unacceptable and demonstrate exactly why we urgently need regulatory approval to upgrade our system so it can better cope with the weather.

“We have a plan to sort this out by tripling investment which will cut spills by 40% by 2030 – more than double the Government’s target.

“We now need the regulator Ofwat to give us the green light so that we can get on with it,” they urged.

The water companies say they want to triple investment to £10 billion over the period 2025-2030 to tackle the problem, which would be paid for through consumer bills.