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Water UK statement on the Environment Bill

A spokesperson for Water UK said: “We welcome the Government’s apparent change of heart, but without seeing their proposal it’s impossible to assess its ambition. We support the Duke of Wellington’s original amendment, and it would be simpler for the Government and MPs to back this.

The water industry completely agrees that we need to end harm from sources like storm overflows. But action cannot stop with the water industry; the Government must also end policies that are making the problem worse, like unflushable wipes that cause spill-triggering fatbergs, and the absolute right of developers to add new drains even if a sewer is overloaded. Crucially, they must also provide guidance to regulators that mean they will authorise new investment in sewers. 

A legal duty is an important step, but the real test of Government’s seriousness is whether it matches that by taking action itself – otherwise we will never achieve the improvements we all want to see.”  

Notes to editors:

  • Reasons for rivers not achieving good ecological status: Agriculture and Rural Management (36%), Water Industry (24%), Urban Development and Transport (11%), Local and Central Government (4%), Mining and Quarrying (2%) (see graphic below)
  • 21st century rivers: Working in partnership with third parties like the Rivers Trust to deliver a new national plan for rivers, with specific actions set out for ending harm from overflows.
  • The report also called on water companies, government, agriculture, and other sectors to come together and help create a series of bathing rivers across the country.
  • In addition, we are calling for the creation of a new ‘Rivers Act’ to bring together all existing legislation and provide greater protection for rivers in law
  • Investment: In our response to the Government’s recent consultation on the Strategic Policy Statement we described the current draft as a ‘missed opportunity’
  • We want Government to use the SPS to ensure that investment decisions put the industry on the right track to meet Government targets on net zero, ensuring that water supplies are resilient to climate change, and ambitious environmental improvements
  • Storm overflows are common across Europe. There are a total of 650,000 storm overflows across the continent, of which, 15,000 are in England