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More than half of people in the UK are scared of outdoor swimming because they fear the water may be polluted with sewage, research has revealed.
And some 55 per cent who have tried wild swimming or sports in British waters have fallen ill afterwards, according to the survey by conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS).
The results also suggest wild swimming is increasing in popularity, with 43 per cent of those who have taken part inspired to try it since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the survey also found that almost a quarter of Britons are avoiding swimming in UK water due to the sewage scandal.
SAS chief executive Hugo Tagholm said: “This Jubilee weekend, the public will flock to our amazing coastlines and rivers to enjoy the water and all the health and wellbeing benefits that taking a dip provides.
“We’re proud of the improvements we’ve already helped deliver for bathing waters nationwide, ensuring swimmers, surfers and holidaymakers have a cleaner and safer experience. However, there is much work still to be done.
“It is clear the UK public are fearful about swimming due to the amount of raw sewage being discharged into waterways, and believe the water industry must cut this crap.
“The public needs a service to check for sewage pollution before entering the water, so they can enjoy the experience without worrying about getting sick.”
SAS, which has campaigned on sewage pollution for decades, undertook the research ahead of the launch of its updated free mobile phone app, the Safer Seas & River Service, a UK-wide real-time sewage pollution alert service.
The launch is timed to coincide with the Jubilee weekend, when thousands are expected to take to the water.
The research also found almost a third of Britons believe water companies are violating the public’s right to a safe, clean and healthy environment, while more than half believe funding for improvements to sewage infrastructure to combat pollution should come from water companies’ profits.
The impact on the environment from pouring sewage into waterways is severe, experts have warned.
Dr Christian Dunn, senior lecturer in natural sciences at Bangor University, said: “Untreated sewage can be a death potion to our rivers and waterways. It is a cocktail of harmful viruses, bacteria and chemicals. Some of these can directly harm aquatic life and others lead to devastating disruptions in the oxygen levels of the water – risking entire ecosystems.
“Rivers are essential for the health of entire landscapes, our wildlife depends on them and there’s no surer way to destroy a river than flooding it with sewage.”