Thank you for contacting me about storm overflows. I am glad that this is the first Government to set out expectations that water companies must take steps to significantly reduce storm overflows. This instruction will now be put on an enhanced legal footing.
Let me be clear, the amount of sewage discharge by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable; water companies must significantly reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows as a priority. If we do not start to see significant improvements I am assured that ministers will not hesitate to take action through a swathe of new measures directly on water companies in the Environment Bill.
There has been some misleading reports about recent votes on this issue and you can find an explanation of my position in full here: https://www.facebook.com/Robfordelyn/posts/652451572826058
In addition, there will be a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon, including how storm overflows will be addressed through these plans.
The Bill will also create a new duty on Government to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges from storm overflows, and produce a report setting out the actions that would be needed to eliminate discharges from storm overflows, and the costs and benefits of those actions. Both publications are required before 1 September 2022. The package of measures will also create three new duties on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation, publish near real time information on the operation of storm overflows and to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works.
Ministers have also announced that they will bolster the measures they are already taking. In July of this year, this Government set out, for the first time ever, its expectation that Ofwat should incentivise water companies to invest to significantly reduce the use of storm overflows in the forthcoming pricing review period. The Government’s amendment will place this policy position in an additional clause in the Environment Bill to underline the action the Government is taking.
I hope this update and clarification is helpful, you may also find my recent post of interest: https://www.facebook.com/Robfordelyn/posts/654503229287559