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Rivers: Sewage

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 87822, tabled on 6 December 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of regulations on water providers on notifying customers of sewage discharges those companies are responsible for into rivers and watercourses.

Answered on

16 December 2021

Working with water companies, the Environment Agency has concluded a programme to install Event Duration Monitors (EDM) on the vast majority of storm overflows, just over 80% of overflows in England, by the end of 2020. These monitors provide a robust and consistent way of monitoring how often and for how long storm overflows are used. By the end of 2023, the remaining number will be monitored.

Our landmark Environment Act places a direct duty on Water Companies and the Environment Agency to publish this sewage discharge data, building on the commitments to openness and transparency made through the Defra led Storm Overflows taskforce. This data was published for the first time in March 2021 for data in 2020.

The Environment Act also goes further, requiring water companies to monitor both the upstream and downstream impacts of their assets and to notify of spills in near real time (within 1 hour). The government will be bringing forward implementing legislation in respect of these duties in due course. The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, also legislated for in the Environment Act, is due to be published in September 2022.

It will be up to individual water companies to take account of the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan and other guidance when considering specific local projects to be included as part of their business plans.