Water UK, the trade body that represents the water and sewage companies, yesterday issued an apology for the scale of sewage pollution in the waterways and coastal waters of Britain and published a plan of action.
The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan includes investment in increasing the capacity of sewage treatment works, repairing and enlarging sewage pipes and building thousands of stormwater retention tanks.
Water UK said: “This could involve additional funding of £10bn this decade, more than tripling (and adding to) current levels of investment of £3.1bn in 2020-25. If approved by regulators, we expect that, by 2030, through this initial wave of investment will aim to cut sewage overflows by up to 140,000 each year compared to the level in 2020. This will kick-off the first wave of a massive transformation programme across 350,000 miles of sewer.”
Approval from Ofwat, the regulator, is required for all investment plans so that water bill payers – who will have to stump up this £10bn – have a degree of protection.
A detailed National Overflows Plan will be published later this summer, Water UK said, explaining each companies’ approach to improving their overflows. This will include when improvements can be expected, and (as projects are developed) how improvements will be delivered and the expected results.
Last year, there were 301,091 sewage spills recorded in England.
Water UK chair Ruth Kelly, the former Labour cabinet minister, said: “The message from the water and sewage industry today is clear: we are sorry. More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches. We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right. This problem cannot be fixed overnight, but we are determined to do everything we can to transform our rivers and seas in the way we all want to see.”