A shock study which delved into that state of rivers in England and Wales has found that two-fifths of them are polluted with sewage, hitting wildlife and potentially threatening human health, conservationists have warned.
Among those investigated was Severn Trent Water which is responsible for the River Trent which runs through Burton, and which was found to have 61 per cent wastewater pollution.
A report from environmental charity World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that 80 per cent of rivers failed to meet good ecological standards, with half affected by sewage pollution. The charity claims that wastewater is not being treated to a high enough standard to protect rivers.
England's nine water and sewerage companies reported 1,902 pollution incidents last year, the first rise since 2012, figures show.
Sewage pollution can cause rapid algae growth, starving rivers of the oxygen that insects, fish and other wildlife need to live and hitting other species including otters and kingfishers at the top of the food chain.
Bacteria, pathogens and parasites in untreated sewage can threaten the health of people whose hobbies or jobs bring them into contact with potentially infected water, such as surfers, rowers, anglers and wild swimmers.
Ben Stafford, head of campaigns at WWF, said: "No one party can fix this problem. Water companies clearly have a key role to play, but we also need greater action through regulation - it should not be legally acceptable to pollute our rivers or frequently discharge untreated sewage.
"We want to see water companies produce long-term wastewater plans that ensure the sewage system is sufficient to prevent pollution and cope with today's downpours, future climate change, increasing urbanisation and population growth.
"We want to see the UK Government and the Welsh Government make these plans a legal requirement."
In September 2016, sewage pollution resulted in more than 15,000 dead fish in the River Trent in Burton as a result of pollution from Strongford sewage treatment works which serves Stoke-on-Trent.
A spokesman for Severn Trent said: "Keeping waterways healthy and ensuring our waste water is treated to a high quality is an absolute priority for us and between now and 2020 we are investing millions of pounds to improve 1,500km of rivers across the Midlands and into Wales.
"As well as investing responsibly to help improve the environment, we are working closely with the Environment Agency, which is responsible for our rivers, to ensure the quality of our waterways continues to improve."