Rising political and public scrutiny demands better sewage monitoring. We need more accurate data alongside stricter controls, according to Peter Matthews and Alastair Chisholm, who propose improvements building on the Worshipful Company of Water Conservator’s recommendations.

Demand for more stringent sewage effluent monitoring and enforcement has been growing for some time. The Environment Agency (EA) recently consulted on changes to its permit charges to enable “tougher action on pollution.” Environment Secretary Steve Barclay last month announced a fourfold increase in inspections by the end of 2025 and tenfold from April 2026, supported by recruitment and upskilling of EA inspectors.

The concerns over the monitoring and reporting of adventitious discharges, such as storm overflows or treatment works major failure has become conflated with concerns over that of continuous effluent discharge. This article focuses on the latter as any changes to that could have very serious consequences as is described below.

Operator self-monitoring (OSM) by water companies has for some time been referred to by campaigners as “marking their own homework”. Under the approach, water and sewerage companies are required to sample their treated effluent discharges, reporting results and flag any breaches of the monitoring and analytical requirements.

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