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Government unveils £1.6bn investment to stop water pollution

The government and water regulator Ofwat have unveiled more than £1.6bn will be invested in infrastructure to improve the water quality of the UK’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters.

The news follows a request from Defra to English water companies to accelerate investments between now and 2025 to tackle storm overflow discharges and reduce nutrient pollution from treatment works.

As part of the new package of investment, companies will commit £1.1bn to help eliminate harm caused by storm overflows. A further £400m will be spent on water resilience schemes and £160m to help reduce nutrient pollution.

The investment includes major new projects such as:

  • United Utilities reducing around 8,400 spills per year, including reducing discharges into Lake Windermere (£800m);
  • Yorkshire Water improving wastewater treatment infrastructure in Ilkley to improve the bathing water quality of the River Wharfe (£67m);
  • South West Water upgrading assets and storage to reduce discharges in Falmouth and Sidmouth (£70m);
  • Anglian Water accelerating its regional storm overflow reduction plan in the east of England (£27m).

Schemes will also focus on new infrastructure to reduce nutrient pollution, including improvements at 14 wastewater treatment works (£160m), which will significantly reduce phosphorus pollution in protected site catchments.

All work will start in the next two years, from 2023 to 2025.

Ofwat Chief Executive David Black said: “Substantial investment is needed to address the challenges to our water system of storm overflows, river and bathing water quality and drought resilience.

“We are pleased that we’ve been able to work with companies and identify significant investments which companies can start well before the next price control period. This will bring substantial benefits for customers and the environment and bring them faster. We want to see companies making more rapid progress in delivering improvements, and will hold them to account if they fall short.”

Ofwat will consult on these draft decisions and the consultation will close at midday on Monday 24 April 2023.

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