Save Windermere from SEWAGE

by Matt Staniek | Save Windermere in Windermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom

Total raised £19,020

£40,000 stretch target 11 days left
190% 378 supporters
Keep what you raise – this project will receive all pledges made by 3rd July 2024 at 8:48am

We are campaigning to end all sewage pollution in Windermere. England's largest lake in the Lake District National Park. Join our fight!

by Matt Staniek | Save Windermere in Windermere, Cumbria, United Kingdom

 New stretch target

If we can reach our stretch target, we can continue to develop and grow our scientific data collection projects and elevate our message further. These funds will also help us to pay for legal advise as we build out the legal framework to protect Windermere. All funding will go towards our efforts to Save Windermere.


Stop the sewage to Save Windermere

Three years ago, I founded the Save Windermere campaign after uncovering a disturbing truth: United Utilities, the North West water company, has been, and continues to, dump sewage into Windermere, England's largest and most iconic lake.

Since 2020, United Utilities has dumped over 27,700 hours' worth of untreated sewage into the lake's catchment area, polluting our cherished lake. 

This must stop and with the general election just weeks away, we must act urgently, but we need your help.

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At the onset of the campaign, I was subjected to numerous meetings with the water company, taken on tours of their sewage works, and reassured that the primary threats to Windermere were not their doing. However, I remained unconvinced.

I then saw the reality. The truth is, United Utilities, along with every other water company in the country, prioritises shareholder dividends over the environmental protection of our lakes, rivers and seas. Consumers are being charged for a service that is not being delivered, and now we are being asked to pay even more while our money is funnelled to shareholders.

As for the regulators, they turn a blind eye to this blatant exploitation of our natural environment a1717168350_screenshot_2024-05-31_at_16.11.39.pngnd the misappropriation of public funds.

Analysis by Professor David Hall has shown that, since privatisation, United Utilities Water Ltd has taken out dividends worth £12.7 billion at current prices, and made a reduction in shareholder equity worth £2.3 billion at current prices; a net extraction by shareholders of £14.9 billion. Meanwhile, they have accrued £8.9 billion in debt whilst making insufficient investment to safeguard Windermere. 

This is one of the largest environmental and financial scams this country has ever faced, and we at Save Windermere are fighting back. We are the sole voice advocating to end sewage pollution in England's most iconic lake – and we need your help

If Windermere is not safe from the exploitation of the water industry, then your local river or coastline certainly isn’t. We believe Windermere can become the flagship site in this national crisis, demonstrating what can be achieved nationwide to protect our freshwater.

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Our campaign is focused on four core pillars of work:

  • Media and Awareness
  • Science and Research
  • Legal Action
  • Political Advocacy

Media and Awareness

Our media success is rooted in our rigorous scientific and investigative work. The campaign has now been featured in or responsible for hundreds of stories in the media. And in recent months, our involvement has led to some significant pieces of coverage which have helped to elevate Windermere in the national conversation:

BBC News: High visitor numbers are turning one of Britain's most scenic lakes green

BBC News: 'Huge' wildlife loss from sewage plant

The Guardian: 70 days of suspected illegal dumps of sewage in Windermere in 2022

BBC News: 10M litres of untreated sewage illegally pumped into Windermere

Science and Research 

Our annual invertebrate data collection project with our partner organisation, WildFish, assesses invertebrate communities, including species diversity and abundance, as well as chemical pressures within watercourses. We have demonstrated significant ecological declines at sites where United Utilities discharges sewage, underlining the severity of their impact. You can find the full report from our first annual survey here.

Last year, we also launched one of the most innovative projects ever conducted to study Windermere, in partnership with Map Impact, with funding from the UK Space Agency. Using satellite imagery and mobile phone data, we established a direct correlation between human activity (i.e pressure on sewage infrastructure) around Windermere and algae growth in the lake. This work supports our campaign's core message: increased human presence leads to more pressure on United Utilities inadequate infrastructure, increasing sewage concentrations in the lake, fostering algal blooms and heightening the risk of environmental disasters such as mass fish kills. Read more about this project here.

Finally, we have an always-on programme of research and investigations, which has included the submission of hundreds of Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulation requests. This effort revealed illegal sewage discharges into Windermere by United Utilities in 2022 with the analysis undertaken by Windrush Against Sewage Pollution. More details can be found here.

Moving forward, we want to extend our own projects and support others who are producing independent evidence in the fight to protect Windermere.

Legal Action

We regularly consult with barristers and solicitors to explore novel legal avenues to hold perpetrators accountable. Although resource constraints often hinder this aspect of our campaign, we have several exciting developments underway and aim to expand this work. 

Political Advocacy

Recently, political leaders such as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey have expressed their outrage over the sewage dumping in Windermere. This stems from years of political lobbying by Save Windermere, ensuring that leaders are informed about our work and actively discussing policy changes.

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As we approach the general election, it is crucial to increase this pressure. We have a unique opportunity to save our lake, and we must act now.


We need your help!

We have launched a new 10-point plan to Save Windermere from sewage. Thousands have already backed this initiative, but we need to expand our reach and support exponentially, as well as continuing the 4 main work streams discussed above. Please join us in this fight to protect Windermere and set a precedent for safeguarding our nation's freshwater resources.

Together, we can stop the exploitation of our natural environment and ensure a cleaner, safer future for all.

Save Windermere's plan for a sewage free Windermere - click here to sign and support


Short Term Goals

(Achieved in next 5 Years/First Term)

  • Effective Regulation
    Launch an inquiry into the failings of the Environment Agency and OFWAT and subsequently provide adequate resources to enable effective regulation and enforcement of existing legislation.
  • Transparent Investment Reporting
    Provide a clear breakdown of infrastructural investment to ensure public funds are spent efficiently and appropriately.
  • Data Transparency
    Ensure full transparency of data from both the water company and the Environment Agency, including asset capacity.
  • Real-Time Monitoring
    Reform current measurement practices by implementing precise monitoring of effluent at sewage outfalls, both treated and untreated, to measure nutrient levels and sewage volume, with data accessible in real-time via a public portal.
  • Permit Reviews
    Update all United Utilities permits so they are fit for the 21st Century and align with the 1994 Urban Wastewater Directive, allowing Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) to discharge only in exceptional circumstances.
  • Tighten Discharge Limits
    Set phosphate, nitrate and ammonia discharge limits to a protective level and enforce capped limits rather than assessing compliance based on annual averages.
  • Prosecution for Illegality and Non-Compliance
    Enforce compliance and introduce suitable financial deterrents for all pollution incidents and non-compliance to prevent profiteering from pollution. Require all investment up to compliance to be funded by the water company (i.e. costs not passed on to consumer).

Long Term Goals

(Achieved in next 10 Years)

  • Greater Protection
    Focus on achieving ‘High’ ecological status for Windermere under the Water Framework Directive.
  • Complete Sewage Removal
    Commit to the complete removal of all United Utilities sewage inputs into Windermere and its catchment.
  • Private Treatment Work Reforms
    United Utilities to take ownership of the most significant septic tanks and package treatment plants under Section 101a of the Water Industry Act 1991 and the First Time Sewerage scheme.

Additional Measures

  • Long Term Monitoring
    Implement robust monitoring framework, with pre-defined objectives to prove return on investment and demonstrate improvements in ecosystem health, including fish populations, water quality, and algal blooms.
  • Enhanced Protection
    Advocate for a Rights of Nature approach, recognising Windermere as a legal entity with the right to maintain its ecological integrity, surpassing current SSSI and SAC designations.

Click here to support our plan


More Save Windermere Background Information


Our campaign has mobilised substantial public support, with several petitions garnering over 430,000 signatures. We have been featured by every major media outlet in the country, and our social media impact in the past year alone has exceeded 9 million impressions – and we are just getting started.

Below is a small selection of our work highlighted in the national press.

ITV: Feargal Sharkey and Save Windermere campaign to stop sewage spills 

BBC: Watchdog criticised over Windermere sewage spill permit

Daily Mail: Steve Coogan demands United Utilities clear up Lake Windermere as he joins protest calling for water firm to stop dumping untreated sewage into beauty spot

The Caterer: Lake District’s Michelin-starred restaurants team up for Save Windermere campaign

The Guardian: Environment Agency failed to find cause of toxic pollution near lake Windermere

The Times: Campaigner Matt Staniek goes on sewage strike to save lake Windermere

The Independent: Comedians back campaign against Lake Windermere sewage pollution

iNews: Chemicals from sewage and septic tanks are killing Windermere, warn campaigners

The next few weeks are crucial for our campaign, and we need your help. 

Every penny raised will go directly towards our efforts to Save Windermere. The campaign is led by me, Matt Staniek, and Finn Pattinson, supported by our board of directors and a variety of expert individuals and organisations, including but not limited to Windrush Against Sewage Pollution and WildFish

Learn more about our team here.

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The Threat Windermere Faces

Sewage is the largest threat to Windermere. It introduces the nutrient phosphorus into the lake, which fuels algal blooms. With the increasing threat of climate change, we are experiencing more rainfall, leading to higher sewage discharges, and also face the risk of droughts, which exacerbate algal growth.

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The danger of algae in Windermere is twofold: firstly, it can be toxic, and secondly, as it decomposes, it depletes oxygen in the water, which can lead to mass fish kills if algal blooms are big enough. This phenomenon, known as eutrophication, occurs worldwide when there is a failure to address the root cause of nutrient pollution in lakes. For Windermere, that root cause is sewage.

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United Utilities and Windermere

United Utilities is responsible for managing the sewage and wastewater infrastructure in the Lake District, including the Windermere catchment area. Their operations are the single largest source of phosphorus entering the lake, making them the primary focus of our efforts.

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United Utilities is one of the worst sewage offenders in the country and they are failing to take adequate actions to reduce phosphorus discharges from their assets. They also withhold critical data, preventing us from fully quantifying their legal and illegal activities. Instead of addressing the issue, they participate in partnerships, diverting attention to septic tanks and farmers in a greenwashing effort. This distraction must be exposed.

Final Appeal

Our fight to save Windermere is a fight for all our natural watercourses. With your support, we can hold United Utilities and government accountable and protect our precious lake for future generations.

Thank you for your support.

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