RAW sewage was released into open water on the Isle of Wight thousands of times last year, figures show.

Storm overflows normally happen when the sewage system is at risk of being overwhelmed, such as after a heavy rain, or during higher levels of groundwater.

In these cases, water companies may need to release excess water and sewage into rivers and the sea, to prevent water backing up into the streets and people's homes.

This has an impact on the quality of our natural water sources.

Figures from the Environment Agency show storm overflows were used 2,253 times within the Isle of Wight's local authority boundaries in 2022, discharging for a total of around 16,787 hours.

All of these spills were from Southern Water's network, though these figures may not provide a full picture of the amount of water pollution in the area.

The Isle of Wight may also be impacted by overspills from areas it shares water sources with.

The Rivers Trust said it was particularly concerned by storm overflows being used during hot periods.

Tessa Wardley, director of communications and advocacy at the charity, said: "Discharging untreated sewage in dry weather is bad for both human health and river health.

“Lower river flows mean more concentrated pollutants at a time when more people want to enjoy their rivers."

Southern Water saw 16,688 overspills across its network in 2022, with 96 per cent of the company's facilities reporting overspill data last year.

In total, there were more than 300,000 overspills across England in 2022 – a 19 per cent reduction on last year, though this may be a reflection of weather conditions rather than improved infrastructure.

A spokesperson for Southern Water said:  “Increased rainfall can put extra pressure on our sewer network when large volumes of surface water enter the system.

"To protect homes, schools and businesses from flooding, storm overflows provide a release valve to allow excess flows to enter the environment.

"These releases contain up to 95 per cent rainwater.  

“However, we know that this is not an acceptable system moving forwards, and as part of £3bn of investment in our network between 2020 and 2025, we are working hard to reduce our reliance of storm overflows.

"We are doing this through a combination of innovative engineering and nature-based solutions, supported by close partnership working and an emphasis on slowing the flow of rainfall into our sewers."