Human poo chain

Photo by Joanna Bury

We have had enough!

Our rivers are full of poo because water companies haven’t updated ageing sewage systems. They prefer to pay millions to shareholders and in bonuses to directors. The government says water companies must reduce the dumping of raw sewage, and of course customers must pay, so our bills could go up by 40 per cent. At Extinction Rebellion (XR), we think the government should make water companies pay – and phase out the dumping of raw sewage as soon as possible: their planned date of 2050 is too late. We have been protesting about this issue since 2020.

Photo by Joanna Bury

Local environmental campaign group XR Wimborne hosted its first ‘Human Poo Chain’ event on 26 August 2023. The spectacle was part of a sewage protest with a sense of humour. Campaigners and members of the public held up placards with synonyms for the word ‘poo’ such as ‘poop’, ‘plops’, ‘turds’, ‘doo-doo’, ‘bowel movements’, and ‘big jobs’, and protesters stood in line at various locations around town and sang poo-themed songs.

“We want to alert our community to Wessex Water’s continuing pollution of our rivers, seas and bathing areas”, said local resident Judy Wateridge. “I’m outraged that our water company dumped raw sewage in the River Stour 531 times in 2022.”

Heron taking off from the River Stour. Copyright Sarah Cowley

Figures released by the Environment Agency show that water companies in England and Wales discharged sewage into rivers at least 375,000 times in 2022, according to analysis by Top of the Poops. Unsurprisingly, only 14 per cent of English rivers are of ‘good’ ecological standard.

“Raw sewage is dumped because water companies haven’t updated the ageing sewage network. Instead, they pay millions to shareholders and in bonuses to directors and managers. This is totally unacceptable!” said local writer and actor, Tony Horitz.

Since our protest, the BBC has reported that Wessex Water is dumping raw sewage even during dry weather – which is not only disgusting, but also illegal.

We will continue to stage protests to raise public awareness until Wessex Water stops discharging raw sewage into our rivers, seas and bathing waters.