The Government has announced that its target to reduce storm overflows will be enshrined in law.
The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, published in August 2022, set out stringent targets to protect people and the environment, backed up by up to £56 billion capital investment – the largest infrastructure programme in water company history.
Today, the Government is announcing that it will enshrine the Plan further in law through the Environment Act 2021. It will make our costed and credible target to reduce storm overflows legally binding, in line with the Plan. This will be backed by existing separate interim milestones for bathing waters and high priority nature sites.
Today’s announcement builds on:
- The requirement for all storm overflows to be fitted with monitors by the end of 2023. 91% currently have them fitted, up from only 7% in 2010. It is as a result of this monitoring that the Government is able to see the extent of what is happening and take action to address it.
- The recent Plan for Water – the Government’s five-year strategy on water – which includes bringing forward £1.6 billion investment, with £1.1bn specifically on storm overflows
- Proposals for unlimited penalties to be imposed on water companies that break the rules. More than £142 million has already been levied in fines since 2015. As set out earlier this year, money from those fines and penalties will also now be channelled back into the environment.
- The commission from the Secretary of State to ask water companies to provide action plans on every storm overflow by this summer.
- The legally binding targets that already exist through the Environment Act 2021 to cut 80% of total phosphorus pollution from sewage treatment plants by 2038.
The targets in the Plan provide an achievable, realistic route to tackling sewage and delivering the improvements customers expect without disproportionately impacting consumer bills.
It was disappointing to see that opposition parties decided not to support the Government’s plans to tackle this issue, instead choosing to play politics rather than act in the national interest.
Only the Conservatives have a clear plan to clean up our waterways.