The government has stated that Ofwat must do more for the environment protection of the water industry.
Rebecca Pow, the environment minister, stated that water companies must significantly reduce the volume and frequency of sewage discharges from storm overflows.
In a statement of strategic policy, the government called on Ofwat Wednesday to challenge water companies about how they can be more ambitious in protecting the environment and ensuring a sustainable water supply.
Pow stated: The priorities that we are setting today build on the work already done to reduce storm overflows, improve monitoring, reporting pollution incidents, and make this more transparent, as well as to address runoff from agriculture and protect the health and safety of our rivers, seas, and oceans.
Ofwat is responsible to determining the areas where water companies should invest during each five year spending cycle. The next one is 2025- 2030.
Martin Salter, the Angling Trust’s head of policy, expressed concern that Ofwat’s guidance could be too limited to address the problem of untreated sewage polluting rivers across the country.
He stated that the policy statement did not guarantee a significant increase in investment by water companies into outdated waste water infrastructure. This has led to record levels of untreated sewage being discharged from facilities that cannot meet demand. Over a period of 3.1m hours, 2020 saw more than 400,000 storm overflows from water companies into rivers.
Salter: We wanted more than just warm words in this water strategy statement and a little restating of the pollution monitoring provisions in the Environment Act. This is the government’s chance to not only end pollution, but also to provide the means to fund the necessary investment in England’s crumbling and leaking waste water infrastructure.
Rivers Trust claimed that the regulator was too narrowly focused on reducing costs in the short-term without considering long-term impacts on the environment or the legacy for future generations.
Amina Abobakar, Rivers Trust’s commercial director, stated that the statement needs to be more ambitious. It fails to mention the need of transformational change and provides no guidance about investment gaps in failing/aging infrastructure. The price review will provide some direction on how to address this.
Water UK, the industry’s representative, stated that it has long stressed the need to regulate the sector to take a long-term perspective and allow for increased investment to address the severe challenges posed by climate changes and population growth.
Ofwat needs to work with water companies in order to ensure that the sector meets government targets. It said that the next price revision will enable the sector to meet the government’s targets by authorizing investment in the right programs, such as net zero and improving river quality.