Interactive map: sewage spills in protected areas

From the Lake District to the Brecon Beacons, Unearthed’s map allows you to search for sewage spills that occurred at your most loved conservation sites last year

Over 300,000 hours of sewage was released into England and Wales’ protected areas last year, according to an investigation by Unearthed. Now an interactive map allows you to find out about which of these spills occurred in your favourite local nature spot or holiday getaway. 

The investigation revealed that almost 1,200 storm overflows discharged within 50m of areas that are supposed to be formally protected by conservation regimes. 

To use this map you can either zoom into your location of interest or put in a postcode. 

The grey shaded areas represent the protected areas we included in our analysis, which used government data. You can see details about the spills by hovering over the pink dots. In some locations, there are multiple dots on top of each other because there is more than one pipe in the same place. You can toggle between them by hovering.

The legal designations included are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Protection Areas (SPA), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Ramsar Sites. These designations can cover land, sea and water bodies. SSSIs are identified because of their nationally important habitats and species, while SACs are home to those that are of international importance. SPAs are recognised as internationally important for rare birds and Ramsar sites are rare wetlands. 

To identify the storm overflows hitting these protected areas in England, we used Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) data provided annually by water companies to the Environment Agency. It shows each pipe and the duration of hours it spilled for in 2022. For Wales, we used EDM data from water company websites. 

You can find more detailed information about the data we used and our methodology at the bottom of our investigation. 

We’ve published the full data set we used for this investigation, which allows you to search each pipe by water company, protected area and local constituency.