Thousands of protesters have taken to coasts and rivers to take a stand to protect the nation’s water quality.

The protests have been coordinated by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) who are calling for an end to the pollution of the UK’s rivers and seas.

Demonstrations were held on the beach at Saltburn and Tynemouth on Saturday.

Sally McGee, Tynemouth protest organiser and SAS supporter, said: “Every surfer across the UK knows that they run the risk of getting sick if they surf. “Many beaches on the beautiful coast around Tynemouth are subject to the discharge of raw sewage immediately after or during storms.

“You can smell and taste the difference in the water.

“It’s really upsetting and feels like we are going backwards in time.”

The Northern Echo:

In June, regulator Ofwat - whose role is to challenge and scrutinise water companies to ensure they deliver safe and reliable water to people and protect the environment - will deliver recommendations on water companies’ investment plans for the next five years (2025 - 2030). 

Water companies have proposed plans for £11 billion in investment for reducing sewage discharges for this period, with customer bills increasing in tandem – a move that has sparked outrage among the public, particularly in the context of the profits paid out to water company bosses and shareholders year on year.

According to analysis by the Financial Times, water companies in England and Wales paid out £2.5bn in dividends in the two financial years since 2021 and a total of more than £78bn in dividends in the 33 years since privatisation.

Get more from The Northern Echo and stay informed with a subscription. Our special offer for May is £3 for 3 months or 30 per cent off an annual subscription at £55. Click here to find out more.

Most read:

The Northern Echo: Sally said: “As a surfer, I believe we have a beautiful relationship with the ocean - we see it in all its glory, and we see it suffer.

“Up here, we share the ocean with bottlenose dolphins and common seals, whilst fulmar birds fly above us.

“When I surf and the water is brown from pollution as untreated sewage leaves the Tyne, I can only imagine how marine life endures it. We can choose if we surf, but it’s their everyday habitat.”

“We are protesting in Tynemouth because we are outraged that water companies and our politicians have allowed this to happen. They have a vital role in society and are abusing their position.

“They must stop the greed, invest and do better.

“We demand an end to sewage discharges in our bathing waters by 2030.”

The Northern Echo: xx (Image: Stuart Boulton)