To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what the timescale is for water companies to publish information on progressive reduction of raw sewage discharges under the Environment Act 2021.
3 December 2021
I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 1 December 2021, PQ 82067.
The Government has made tackling sewage overflows a priority and we are the first Government to take concerted action to tackle this historic infrastructure issue.
Earlier this year the Government published a new draft set of strategic priorities for the water industry's financial regulator Ofwat. In this publication Government set out its expectation that water companies must take steps to "significantly reduce the frequency and volume of sewage discharges from storm overflows."
The Environment Act then placed this direction on a statutory footing, setting a duty for water companies to achieve a progressive reduction in the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows. Defra intends to set out the level of ambition expected by this in due course.
The Water Industry Act, as amended by the Environment Act, will include a duty on water companies to publish near real time information (within one hour) of the commencement of an overflow, its location and when it ceases, and to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of a storm overflow or a sewage disposal works. These requirements will be part of the way we measure and evaluate the reduction in harm caused by storm overflows and the Government will bring forward implementing legislation in due course.