As someone who regularly enjoys a swim at our local beaches, I fully understand and share people's concerns about the quality of our water, and I have consistently pushed for improvements.
The amount of sewage discharge by water companies into our rivers is unacceptable and I know that the Government has set out expectations that water companies must take steps to significantly reduce storm overflows. This instruction will now be put on an enhanced legal footing.
The Environment Act 2021 includes a new duty directly on water companies to produce comprehensive statutory Drainage and Sewerage Management Plans, setting out how they will manage and develop their drainage and sewerage system over a minimum 25-year planning horizon, including how storm overflows will be addressed through these plans.
The Act also creates a duty on the Government to produce a statutory plan to reduce discharges from storm overflows and produce a report setting out the actions needed to eliminate discharges from storm overflows in England. I know that the aim of public consultations is to test policy proposals for their effectiveness. The Government published its consultation in March 2022 and this will help to shape the targets that water companies must achieve to significantly reduce their reliance on storm overflows, which will later form part of the Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan. I look forward to reading the Government's response to the consultation when it is published.
Further, the package of measures I voted for will also create three new duties on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation, publish near real time information on the operation of storm overflows and to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works.
I welcome that the Government secured an amendment that says that water companies must secure a progressive reduction in the adverse impact of discharges from their storm overflows, placing a direct legal duty on water companies.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.