Yesterday, Water UK, the trade association representing the water companies of the UK, announced:
- A public apology from water companies for not acting quickly enough on sewage spills
- £10 billion is ready to be invested to help cut sewage overflows by up to 140,000 per year
- A new environmental hub, launching in 2024, with near real-time information on overflows
- Companies will support up to 100 communities to create new bathing waters
Julia Lopez MP has welcomed that water companies are now delivering the investment which the government has required them to make. The £10 billion is the first tranche of the £56 billion investment which government has required water companies to make over the next 25 years. This will deliver the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, the largest ever infrastructure investment, which ministers announced in summer 2022.
Water companies are acting because Environment Secretary, Dr Therese Coffey MP, demanded they develop their new plans. In February 2023, water companies were asked to develop improvement plans for every storm overflow and that is what they are now announcing they will publish. Mrs Lopez has welcomed this confirmation – but this is being delivered because the UK government have told water companies this action must be taken.
The investment must be reviewed by the Environment Agency and Ofwat to ensure the companies’ business plans are deliverable and will not unduly affect customers’ bills. The government does not want the public to see large increases in their bills.
This builds on the government’s Plan for Water, announced last month. The plan announced new Catchment Action Plans to improve all water bodies in England, backed up with new funding, and a new Water Restoration Fund where money from fines and penalties will be spent directly in restoring the water environment. A summary of the plan was shared on Julia’s website - Government launches landmark Plan for Water | Julia Lopez MP
In terms of water companies involved in Hornchurch and Upminster, Essex and Suffolk Water will be receiving £20 million to provide a raw water transfer between Abberton and Hanningfield reservoirs, helping to improve water security for the county. Anglian Water is also investing £27 million to accelerate storm overflow improvements to reduce 450 spills per year over 21 storm overflows at high priority sites. Thames Water is currently planning to build a new reservoir in West Oxfordshire and Anglian Water is planning to build new reservoirs in the Fens and in South Lincolnshire. Mrs Lopez is supportive of these developments and shared this via Thames Water and Anglian Water’s recent consultations.
Mrs Lopez and her office have previously assisted local residents affected by flooding in summers 2021 and 2022. Mrs Lopez coordinated a meeting between representatives from Transport for London (TfL), Network Rail, Havering Council, Thames Water, and councillor for Hacton Ward, Gerry O’Sullivan, who had been working with affected residents to get to the bottom of the flooding at Abbs Cross bridge. Following a succession of meetings, further inspections took place and we were very pleased to be informed by Cllr. O’Sullivan that, after numerous inspections, the cause of the flooding had been found and appropriate rerouting of pipes has taken place which should hopefully alleviate any further flooding.