Bathing Water - rivers fit to swim

Adian, Sam, Stanley and Spud pondering the river
Aidan, Sam, Stanley & Spud pondering the river at Falcon Meadow

In May 2023, over 200 protesters marched through the streets of Bungay to Falcon Meadow, making it clear that they wanted rivers to be clean and safe to swim without the risk of becoming sick.

Here’s some of what they had to say:

“Keep it clean, have bathing areas.”

“Share information about sewage spills promptly so that informed choices about swimming can be made.”

“Lobby the water companies and factories discharging in the river, hold companies to account, monitor water quality.”

“The raw sewage is just wrong …. It should never happen full stop. 

A busy day on the River Waveney summer 2022
A busy day on the River Waveney Summer 2022

What is bathing water designation?

Our application for bathing water designation at Falcon Meadow in Bungay is underway, we are taking weekly water samples and monitoring the number of people using the site, ready to submit to Defra in October this year. If our application is successful, this site will be added to only four current inland river bathing waters across the country.

Designation will mean that:

  • The Environment Agency must investigate sources of pollution.
  • Polluters will be made accountable and required to reduce pollution entering the water.
  • Local authorities must widely publicise the annual water quality classification of the site. This will be ‘Excellent’, ‘Good’, ‘Sufficient ‘or ‘Poor’.

This is part of the bigger picture and the river needs so much more to gain overall good health, but we are certain it is a massive step toward holding all polluters to account and improving water quality. Shining a light onto rivers and helping them thrive.

The designation of bathing waters in England until recently has been restricted to coastal locations, compared to 420 river locations in France. It’s time to change that.


Falcon Meadow 10th May 2023 by Andrew Atterwell

Why Falcon Meadow?

Falcon Meadow is well-used for bathing, canoeing, paddleboarding, paddling and river dipping, as well as by dog walkers and anglers throughout the year. It is opposite the headquarters of the 1st Bungay Sea Scouts, formed in 1947, and the Waveney Valley Canoe Club. Facilities are nearby, and this special place is close to people’s hearts.

Training volunteers to take water samples on the river at Falcon Meadow

So far so good!

Our volunteers have been out every week since January collecting water samples to test for signs of harmful bacteria. The methods used meet Environment Agency Standards, and results will indicate the likely classification of the site if designated. Results will be out soon so watch this space!

Water sample points to measure for harmful bacteria 


What causes sewage to spill?

These discharges happen when rainfall causes Bungay’s sewage system to be overloaded, so the overspill, a mixture of sewage and rainwater, goes into the river. It also happens if there is an issue, such as a blockage at the sewage works. These discharges are known as Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs), and the map below shows where this happens in Bungay.

The current state of the river in Bungay

A decrease in discharges from 2021, where sewage was spilt for over 1000 hours, is shown in the 2022 figures on the map below. This will be partially due to drought conditions experienced in 2021. Anglian Water has also made improvements around Bungay, with targets to reduce this figure to less than ten spills per CSO by 2030. If designated the target will be even tighter - less than 2 spills to occur across the whole of Bungay in any given year. 

Adapted from the Rivers Trust Sewage Map

Anglian Water is constantly improving their monitoring data. In 2021 some sites were unmonitored, from 2022 all sites were monitored in Bungay and the aim is that by the end of 2023 real-time data will be publicly available for every site.

Support this campaign - We need you!

Success will mean a team effort. Could you visit the meadow and record the number of people involved in water-related activities?

Do you live nearby, and would you happily write a letter supporting the applications?

Would you like to help us take regular water samples?

If so, please get in touch with

Thanks to our funders below as well as Bungay Town Council for generously supporting the project.