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Response to the Environment Agency’s annual report on environmental performance

In response to the Environment Agency’s annual report on the environmental performance of England’s water and sewerage companies, Christine McGourty, Chief Executive of Water UK, said:

 Over the last decade, water companies have taken significant steps forward in tackling pollution in our rivers and waterways, with excellent results in many areas and some companies achieving the highest levels of performance. And the whole industry is determined to do more.

“There are examples of stand-out performance in the data now published for the last 12 months, with some achieving four-star environmental performance and the majority of companies rated as good or better. Across the industry serious pollution incidents have fallen by 90% since the 1990s.

“But the data shows there is work to be done, and in an industry that’s committed to the highest environmental standards, water companies will be doubling efforts to share the very best practice, collaborate, innovate and work with all those involved to bring about continued improvements for the environment and our customers.”

All English water and sewerage companies have published comprehensive Pollution Incident Reduction Plans which set out how they will reduce pollution across their region.

Water companies are also using a variety of innovative techniques and initiatives to prevent pollution incidents including:

  • Wessex Water is trialling an initiative to develop the use of artificial intelligence algorithms to speed up the interpretation of CCTV data from sewers. This would help lower costs and enable the company to respond more quickly to any problems.
  • Anglian Water’s ‘Pollution Watch’ campaign works with local communities to help them understand the sewer network and what to do if they spot a problem. The campaign calls on all nature lovers, environmentalists, anglers, dog walkers, birdwatchers, kayakers and canal-walkers to come together and create a battalion of river guardians.
  • South West Water have partnered with Exeter University to create the Centre for Resilience Environment, Water and Waste (CREWW). The partnership is undertaking research into a range of pressing issues facing the water and waste sectors, including the specific challenges around pollution incidents.
  • Northumbrian Water have installed ‘floating eco-systems’ on Killingworth Lake as part of a wider £6 million project to prevent flooding & increase sewer capacity across North Tyneside.

Many companies have declared their ambition to significantly reduce or eliminate pollution incidents over the coming years while the industry has committed to reducing serious pollution incidents by 90% by the end of 2025.