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  • by Karma Loveday

Ofwat highlights leaders and laggards in river revival

Ofwat highlighted the broad spread of wastewater company responses to its March demand to firms to spell out how they intend to protect river health, in a statement published last week.


The regulator praised Anglian Water, Severn Trent, South West Water and Northumbrian Water for all committing to reduce their storm overflow spills to an average of 20 a year by 2025 and to ensure their operations are not responsible for water bodies not achieving Good Ecological Status by 2030. It also noted United Utilities and Wessex Water had committed to reduce use of overflows by 2025.


In contrast, Ofwat said other firms had shown “limited ambition to act before 2025 beyond pre-existing plans set three years ago”. It challenged these companies in particular to address storm spills being caused by operational problems such as pump failures as a priority, “in line with their legal duties to effectually deal with the contents of sewers”. It also flagged room for improvement from many in making their plans public and accessible.


CCW chief executive, Emma Clancy, called for more uniformity across the industry. She said: “The whole industry should be united behind the same level of ambition to reduce the harm caused by storm overflows, at a time when two-thirds of people have told us they want to see planned improvements to ensure rivers are a healthy habitat for wildlife.”


Ofwat said the commitments made by leading companies would help set performance benchmarks on storm overflows at PR24 and warned those who fail to act now that they may well face more challenging improvement targets at PR24. It added that it will also consider how to incentivise and enable targets set by Defra in its Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan, along and the storm overflow duties introduced by the Environment Act 2021.


All wastewater companies are still being scrutinised as part of the investigations by Ofwat and the Environment Agency into wastewater treatment works legal obligations. Anglian, Northumbrian, Thames, Wessex Water and Yorkshire are facing enforcement.


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