THE number of hours sewage was released into Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole's waterways more than doubled last year.

New figures show the number of hours of sewage spills from water companies across England has doubled over the past year.

Data from the Environment Agency shows sewage from storm overflows was flowing into water bodies in Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole for 2,405 hours in 2023, during 444 spills.

This was up from 953 hours recorded the year before when there were 336 spills in the area.

All of these were from facilities operated by Wessex Water.

Jade Chapman from Surfers Against Sewage said: "With such large figures being thrown about, it can be easy to become numb to the reality of the situation.

"But don't fall for the spin – the deluge of s*** pouring into our rivers and seas is a generational scandal where a broken system, fuelled by greed, is causing catastrophic harm to lives, livelihoods and the natural world."

The Environment Agency and Wessex Water said this rise may be partly due to the country experiencing its sixth-wettest year on record.

Jade said: "These shocking figures will only fuel our fire to make 2024 the year when the tide finally turns on the sewage scandal.

"A cresting wave of public anger, a general election and water companies setting out their investment plans make this year a now-or-never moment for the campaign to end sewage pollution, and we're not going to let it pass."

A spokesperson for industry body Water UK said: "These results are unacceptable and demonstrate exactly why we urgently need regulatory approval to upgrade our system so it can better cope with the weather."

A Wessex Water spokesperson said: "Licensed storm overflows automatically operated more frequently last year to protect properties from flooding due to the fourth wettest year since records began.

"We agree that storm overflows are outdated, which is why we're investing £3 million a month to progressively improve them – with plans to more than double that investment if approved by our regulators.

"We're also in the process of upgrading Bournemouth's Holdenhurst Water Recycling Centre at a cost of more than £30 million, increasing sewage treatment capacity to help further protect the area's excellent beaches."