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Sewage is making the headlines and is one of four top election topics. Hear a discussion from two sides of the issue, a water company and Surfers Against Sewage, on how working in synergy leads to positive action and local solutions that can be replicated in many local communities. This presentation describes how local activism and a Southern Water pathfinder project have come together to find solutions and generate new, positive interactions within the Island community.


A new report on the amounts of sewage released into our rivers and coastal waters makes depressing reading.  The infrastructure that deals with land drainage and sewage is not fit for purpose. Changing climate means far heavier rain events that overwhelm the system. While the national discussion heats up about who is to blame and who will pay the eye-watering amounts of money required to fix the situation, what can we do in our own communities to start to improve things now?

It turns out that there is quite a lot that can be done—and once actions begin, they lead to improvements for other environmental problems as well.  Action requires cooperation between the public, pressure groups and the water companies. The Isle of Wight has a long coastline, and its coastal waters and beaches are vital for the local community and visitors alike. Just as in other regions, there are currently big problems with pollution. In today’s discussion we will hear from the Isle of Wight representative of Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), a campaigning group that has been at the forefront of the fight for clean waters for several decades, and from Southern Water’s Pathfinder Lead for the Island. Pathfinder projects seek ways to reduce overflow events by data gathering, liaison with stakeholders, and practical action. SAS argue that thriving oceans are essential for us all—they provide a host of educational resources as well as being fierce lobbyists.  Sewage is central to all our lives, and we all need to start working for solutions.

In this presentation, we will learn about the cooperative program being developed on the Isle of Wight, which exemplifies a positive approach to the problems we face.  A synergy developed among interested parties can drive positive change, for both water and sewage problems, and more broadly in the community as links are developed and strengthened. From this program, a toolkit is emerging that other communities can use in dealing with critical environmental issues.


Keith Herbert, Pathfinder Lead (Southern Water) 

Chani Courtney, Volunteer Regional representative for Surfers Against Sewage

Chair: Mary Edwards, School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Southampton

This event has been organised by the South committee

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