Over £180m of investment fast-tracked to prevent sewage spills

Thousands of spills to be prevented by increased investment this year

Fast-tracked investment of £180m over the next 12 months is expected to prevent more than 8000 sewage spills polluting English waterways, the Environment Secretary announced today (Monday 11th March).    

It follows the Secretary of State directing water and sewage companies last December to measurably reduce sewage spills over the next year by accelerating commitments and delivering new funding.

Examples of measures include investment in AI systems to help manage storm loads, the installation of thousands of new in-sewer monitors to check flows and spot blockages early, the recruitment and training of specialist staff, and accelerated wetland construction programmes. 

These new funding commitments are in addition to water companies’ existing £3.1 billion investment into storm overflow improvements for this price review period (2020-2025), as well as their ongoing annual investment to maintain the performance of the existing network.

The accelerated improvements, which will be delivered by April 2025, support the targets under the government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan. This is driving the largest infrastructure investment in water company history, estimated at £60 billion over the next 25 years.

It also follows the recent ban on bonuses for water company executives where firms have committed serious criminal breaches, subject to Ofwat consultation, and the quadrupling of the Environment Agency’s regulatory capacity, enabling them to carry out 4,000 water company inspections by the end of the next financial year.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:  

"The amount of sewage being spilled into our rivers is completely unacceptable and the public rightly expects action. This £180 million of accelerated investment, which will stop more than 8,000 sewage spills over the next year, is a welcome step forward as we continue to push for better performance from water companies and hold them to account.  

"This money will mean more cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence, and more specialist staff to detect and reduce spills.   

"Today’s announcement builds on significant work by this government to protect and strengthen our waters with increased investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement action."

From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP