Scottish Water is always working to protect Scotland’s beaches and rivers. We treat the wastewater from our homes and businesses at one of our 1,826 waste water treatment works safely returning it to the environment. This requires huge amounts of equipment and 32,940 miles of sewer pipes.

If something goes wrong, sewage pollution of watercourses can have a major impact on wildlife and amenity value.
We’re working hard to minimise such pollution, and we’d like your help. You can do it by telling us as soon as possible if you see sewage pollution in a river, stream or other watercourse.

What is Sewage Pollution?

The obvious sign of sewage pollution of a watercourse is the presence of sewage solids in the water, but there may also other indications, these include:

  • Sewage related debris (SRD) such as tissue paper, wipes, condoms and sanitary products
  • A noticeable odour of sewage

Pollution can cause a risk to human health, affect biodiversity, amenity value and has the potential to kill fish and other aquatic life. 

Causes of sewage pollution

  • Flushing things like wipes, nappies or cotton buds down the toilet can cause drains to block leading to flooding of homes and pollution of the environment. Our keep the cycle running campaign highlights the things that are flushed away which cause problems and should be disposed of correctly. 
  • Cooking fats - Fat, oil and grease (FOG) in liquid form may not appear to be harmful as they don’t get stuck in the plughole, but as they cool they congeal, harden and stick to the inside of drains and sewers, which can cause drains to block, flooding you and your neighbours.
  • Misconnections - A misconnection is a term applied when the drainage from a building has been connected to the wrong sewer network, either a foul water connection to a surface water system or vice versa. They are the result of incorrect plumbing and pollute waterways across the country. An explanation and our policy can be found in our Surface Water Connection Documents here