Environmentalists respond to Nidd and Ure sewage spill figures
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Last updated Mar 28, 2024
A section of the river Nidd in Knaresborough.

Two environmental groups have responded to the news of sewage spills more than doubling in the River Nidd and Ure last year.

It comes after the Environment Agency last week revealed sewage discharge figures for all water and sewage companies in England, including Yorkshire Water.

The Stray Ferret analysed the data for the two main rivers in the Harrogate district and found sewage spills not only more than doubled in 2023, but also saw a total of 27,838 hours of spills.

Investment into infrastructure ‘coming too late’

We contacted Nidd Action Group (NAG), which spearheads the iNidd campaign for improved water quality, about the recent figures.

The group appear less than impressed about the significant increases.

David Clayden, the chair, last week told the Stray Ferret:

“From NAG’s quick look at the Nidd data, there seems to be at least 30% more spills this year for almost double the hours of spilling sewage than last year.

“Bear in mind that Yorkshire Water’s plan, determined by the government, is to reduce the average number of spills per asset to less than 10 per year by 2050 (quicker for Knaresborough if we get Safe Bathing Water Status). Yorkshire Water’s considerable investment in infrastructure is coming too late and won’t get the safe bathing and ecological balance in our river right for many years.

“The numbers are going the wrong way. NAG is looking for reduction year-on-year — not upward blips!

“Of course, it has rained a lot this winter but we need to be prepared for changed weather patterns, not just hoping for the best.”

Mr Clayden said the group will “continue to scrutinise what is being planned and what is being achieved for the Nidd”.

NAG will also press Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency for effective and rapid ways to reduce this tide of sewage, he added.

Rivers trust says figures are ‘distressing’

We also contacted the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust (YDRT), a charity that works to protect local rivers, about the data.

Charlotte Simons, catchment partnership manager for YDRT, said the figures come as “distressing news” to the organisation, adding:

“As our population grows and we experience more extreme weather events as a result of climate change, the frequency of these discharges will only increase, unless action is taken. We want to see an end to the practice of discharging raw sewage into our rivers.

“We want to be able to swim, paddle, fish and play in our rivers without risk of getting sick. We want to give our native wildlife a chance to recover, and see our rivers full of life.

“Yorkshire Water has pledged investment over the next five years to tackle this problem. Now we need the government to play their part and approve that spending, to hold Yorkshire Water to account, and to ensure that good decisions are made for long-term environmental and societal benefit.

“This means working with nature as much as possible, looking for integrated solutions that tackle the sewage problem along with other sources of pollution, and deliver more benefits to society too.”

The Stray Ferret reported on the Nidd and Ure statistics last week, which also recorded a total of 2,799 counted continuous spills between the rivers.

Political rivals Andrew Jones MP and Tom Gordon also shared their rather opposing views on the figures at the time.


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