New Measures To Reduce Sewage Discharges From Storm Overflows
The government has announced that new measures will be introduced to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows, which is important to cut the amount of pollution entering our waterways.
When it rains, these storm overflows serve to prevent sewers from becoming overloaded with sewage and rain, releasing diluted wastewater into rivers. However, overflows have been used increasingly over the last few years, with climate change driving greater rainfall. In addition, water infrastructure has failed to keep pace with population growth.
The government has now confirmed that various key policies will be made law, with three main duties created to oversee the necessary changes to improve the U’s water environment.
These are a duty on the government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from overflows, a duty to report to Parliament on the progress of implementing this plan and a duty on water companies to publish annual data on storm overflow operation.
This builds on the work being done by the Storm Overflows Taskforce, which was set up in September 2020, to drive progress in discharges from overflows. This saw water companies pledging to increase the number of overflows being improved in the next five years, with an additional 800 set to be investigated and almost 800 improved between 2020 and 2025.
Rebecca Pow, environment minister, said: “Putting new commitments to improve our rivers into law is an important step forward to cut down the water sector’s reliance on storm overflows. This step is one of many – but an important one nonetheless – to provide greater protection for our water environment and the wildlife that relies on it.”
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, made further comments, saying that everyone has a responsibility to protect the water environment and it is essential that water supplies do their utmost to ensure that storm overflow use is kept to an “absolute minimum”.
Recent research from Surfers Against Sewage found that the UK missed its targets in 2020 for UK seas to meet Good Environmental Status, with 86 per cent of rivers and inland waterways failing to meet Good Ecological Status.
The organisation issued a call for nature-based solutions to be introduced to solve the problem of sewage pollution, such as greater levels of investment and targets brought in to restore natural habitats and reduce pressure one water systems. This would help prevent sewer overflows and increase biodiversity, as well as tackling climate change.
It also recently delivered its #EndSewagePollution petition to Parliament, which was signed by 44,691 people, calling for an end to sewage pollution and the guarantee of safe seas and rivers.