Pollution from Waste Water

All of us generate wastewater every day, from toilets, sinks, bathrooms, kitchen appliances and vehicle washing. Industry also produces a lot of wastewater.

This wastewater needs to be treated before it can be returned to the environment, otherwise, it can harm animals and plants, and make water unfit for drinking. It is easier and more cost-effective to stop pollutants reaching the water course than to try and remove them once they are in our rivers, but even well-treated sewage may be rich in nutrients which can cause algae to grow excessively under certain circumstances. This can starve other species of essential oxygen and stop plants and animals from thriving. Dissolved metals and some chemicals not normally removed by treatment processes can be toxic to animals and plants.

Sewage treatment works are under increasing pressure from population growth and increased frequency of floods and droughts. 18% of the reasons for failure in the Swale, Ure, Nidd and Upper Ouse, and 13% in the Wharfe and Lower Ouse are due to the effect of sewage discharged from wastewater treatment works and discharges from industry.

Stop and Think… Not Down the Sink!

The water from our houses and gardens will end up in the river. We can all do our bit to help protect the river by following these simple steps:


Don’t pour chemical, such as bleach, down the sink or drain.


Your bath, sink, toilet, dishwasher and washing machine should be connected to the foul water drain, not a surface water drain which would take this dirty water straight to the river. It is your responsibility to correct any misconnections. Find out more here.


Look for ecological detergents and washing up liquids. These have low phosphate content reduce the amount of damaging nutrients reaching the river.


Don’t tip grass cuttings into the stream, or leave on the stream bank as this will add nutrients to the water. Use fertilisers sparingly and don’t use slug pellets as they are harmful to aquatic life. Try natural pesticides.


The water from fish tanks is high in nutrients. When you change the water, use it to water your plants. It will help the plants grow and stop nutrients harming the fish in the river.

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