Defra calls on sector to help reform national environment programme

Defra, Ofwat and the Environment Agency (EA) have announced a cross-government and regulator review of the Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP) ahead of the 2024 price review, and called for water companies to get involved in the design and development of the revised approach.

In a joint letter to water companies, the policy makers said the intention is to make WINEP “more outcomes focused”. They explained: “We will look at ways to make it less prescriptive, more open to innovation and nature-based solutions and to enable new environmental outcomes to be incorporated (like net zero and flood resilience).”

Elsewhere, the letter set out an expectation for a greater level of ambition for the water environment and invited industry collaboration.

The letter, signed by Defra director of floods and water, Sally Randall, Ofwat chief executive, Rachel Fletcher, and EA executive director, Harvey Bradshaw, called for water company input on:

• reducing pollution from storm overflows to feed into the work of a new joint Storm Overflows Taskforce, and potentially to be delivered through the new Drainage and Wastewater Management Planning process;

• a long-term environmental destination for "government priority,”chalk stream restoration, and actions water companies could take in getting there, including tackling groundwater infiltration and storm overflows; and

• regional water resource planning – companies were told to actively engage with the work of the five regional groups, and to expect “senior engagement” on this from RAPID.

A ministerial round table to discuss all of these issues is arranged for 8 September.