Water Fighting

Words by Oliver Berry

While we’ll all be turning our thoughts to finding some sun, surf and summer sounds in the months ahead, spare a thought for those hard-working souls at Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). While the summer hots up, so does the workload at SAS headquarters. Summer is by far the organisation’s busiest period, and it’s also the season when the average beach-goer is most likely to get first-hand experience of the beneficial effects of some of the organisation’s campaigns.

Following last month’s release of the Household Chemicals survey – a disturbing report which details the quantity of toxic substances washed into our waterways thanks to our devotion to shower gels and shampoos – SAS will be rolling out the initiative nationwide, aiming to educate consumers on the damaging effect their choice of consumer products has on the wider environment, and to persuade them of the benefits of buying more eco-friendly brands. The campaign has already attracted some high-profile coverage, and several demonstrations have recently been staged in its support – so SAS is hoping to see some serious results over the coming months.

Unfortunately, one of the organisation’s other key campaigns has run into serious difficulties at the hands of the European Parliament. The joint SAS-Surfrider campaign on European Bathing Standards – a much-needed initiative to get the 30-year-old water quality standards updated to meet current WHO recommendations – was recently rejected at its second reading by Euro MPs, despite an original vote in October 2003 which overwhelmingly supported the campaign, and a petition of support containing more than 10,000 signatures. Richard Hardy, Campaigns Director at SAS, was deeply disappointed by the parliament’s unexpected U-turn. “Surfers are more than three times as likely to contract water-borne diseases, such as Hepatitis A, than other recreational water users. This vote has failed to protect those bathers most at risk from polluted water, and still allows one in every eight bathing waters across the EU to run health risks.” SAS and Surfrider will now look at the possibility of lobbying the European Commission for a new directive that protects recreational water uses across the EU.

On a more positive note, the SAS/Quiksilver Ecogrom Tour recently came to an end after several weeks of feverish beach-cleaning (and the odd spot of tag-team surfing). This new educational initiative brings together professional surfers and local children in an attempt to enhance their understanding of the marine environment, and the ways in which they can protect it against the threat of pollution. With stops in St Ives, Croyde, Jersey, Llangennith (Gower Peninsula), and Bundoran (Ireland), the tour has been one of the most successful SAS education programmes yet.

So while Europe dithers about cleaning up our sea waters and the world’s governments dawdles about tackling global warming, it’s good to know that there’s one organisation that’s really trying to make a difference – and it just happens to be right on our doorstep. Good on ya, SAS.