Critical infrastructure projects get £1.6bn investment

The UK government and Ofwat have announced that over £1.6 billion will be invested in critical infrastructure to improve the water quality of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters, as well as secure future water supplies. This investment was requested by Defra to English water companies to accelerate investments between now and 2025 to tackle storm overflow discharges, reduce nutrient pollution from treatment works, and address water resilience challenges. The announcement precedes the government’s Integrated Plan for Water, which will be published the next day and will explain how cleaner and more abundant water can be achieved for future generations. The investment will ensure that improvements are made more quickly to tackle the unacceptable levels of pollution in waterways and deliver for customers.

As part of the new investment package announced by Ofwat, companies will commit £1.1 billion to help eliminate harm caused by storm overflows, with a further £400 million to be spent on water resilience schemes and £160 million to help reduce nutrient pollution. This investment will include major new projects, such as reducing around 8,400 spills per year by United Utilities, improving wastewater treatment infrastructure by Yorkshire Water, upgrading assets and storage by South West Water, accelerating regional storm overflow reduction by Anglian Water, increasing water resilience in the Essex and Suffolk Water area, and modifying the Draycote Water reservoir by Severn Trent.

The investment will also include new infrastructure to reduce nutrient pollution. Improvements at 14 wastewater treatment works will significantly reduce phosphorus pollution in protected site catchments, with an investment of £160 million. This includes proposals from Anglian Water to both reduce pollution and support sustainable housing development. All work will begin in the next two years, from 2023 to 2025.

According to Water Minister Rebecca Pow, these new schemes will help accelerate the delivery of the urgent improvements required to protect the environment. The investment includes £1.1 billion of new investment to stop sewage discharges across the country, resulting in a reduction of 10,000 discharges per year in places like Lake Windermere, the River Wharfe, Falmouth, and Sidmouth. The investment outlined will also provide an essential boost for regional jobs, businesses, and local communities. Ofwat Chief Executive David Black stated that substantial investment is required to address the challenges faced by the water system of storm overflows, river and bathing water quality, and drought resilience.

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