Measures to reduce sewage discharges into rivers from storm overflows will be put into law to improve the quality of water in our rivers.
During wet weather, storm overflows act to prevent sewers becoming overloaded with a combination of sewage and rain and release diluted wastewater into rivers. Their use has increased in recent years as climate change has led to greater rainfall while water infrastructure has not kept pace with population growth. Reducing the reliance of water companies on storm overflows is important to help cut pollution in waterways.
The government has confirmed that a number of key policies will be made law. This will create three key duties to oversee some of the changes needed to improve our water environment:
- a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
- a duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
- a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.
This builds on the work already underway by the Storm Overflows Taskforce, set up in September 2020, to bring together government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs to accelerate progress in this area. Through the Taskforce, water companies have committed to increase the number of overflows they will improve over the next five years. This means a further 800 overflows will be investigated and nearly 800 improved between 2020 and 2025.
Welcoming the news, MP for North East Bedfordshire, Richard Fuller, said:
It's vitally important we protect our rivers so I welcome these new measures to reduce the reliance of water companies on storm overflows and cut the amount of sewage discharged into our waterways.
The government expects to consult on potential options for ways to eliminate harm from storm overflows to take forward later this year.