Improved wastewater treatment has led to wildlife ‘success story’, research shows

Insect life has rebounded in a river receiving all of Swindon’s wastewater thanks to substantial investments to improve sewage treatment, according to a DEFRA-funded study.

The River Ray in Wiltshire, which lies downstream of Swindon’s major sewage plant, is largely formed of treated wastewater and had seen steep declines in wildlife populations from the 1960s onwards. 

However, EU regulation, in the form of the 1991 Urban Wastewater Directive, led to water company Thames Water adopting the more efficient “activated sludge” method for processing the town’s sewage, which helped to improve the quality of processed water entering the river.

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