Water sector set to invest £2.7 billion on building back greener

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The water sector will invest £2.7 billion to deliver lasting environmental improvements.

Ofwat, in collaboration with Defra, the Environment Agency, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, and Consumer Council for Water (CCW), has given the go ahead on delivering ‘a broad range of proposals to offer a more resilient, greener and healthier future.’

David Black, Interim Chief Executive at Ofwat, commented on the announcement: “This huge package of investment will help the environment while providing a significant economic stimulus and offer thousands of extra jobs and training opportunities – delivering a boost when it’s needed most.

“I look forward to seeing the companies delivering on this ambition and bringing forward lasting environmental improvements for current and future generations.”

Five water companies – Severn Trent Water, South Staffs Water, South West Water, Thames Water, and United Utilities will invest an extra £793 million, on top of their existing five-year PR19 packages, to help the green economic recovery.

These companies, along with seven others in England, are also bringing forward £1.9 billion worth of investment in additional statutory environment schemes into the 2020-25 period.

The final decision to give the green light on the additional investment is set to allow water companies to take extra action on the most pressing environmental issues.

Severn Trent Water will invest £169 million to make improvements to water quality in 500km of rivers – equivalent to the distance between London and Carlisle.

Severn Trent Water, South West Water and United Utilities will invest £158 million to reduce harm from storm overflows and trial the creation of two new bathing rivers.

In addition, United Utilities and South West Water are set to deliver a range of nature-based solutions in partnership with local stakeholders.

Severn Trent Water is set to work closely with local authorities to reduce flooding – developing natural flood management and green urban landscape solutions which will prevent rainwater entering the system in the first place.

Companies will also be taking steps towards reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and towards the goal of net zero.

For example, Severn Trent Water and South Staffs Water are both set to introduce innovative low-carbon ways of treating drinking water, which also have the potential to reduce the use of chemicals.

Two companies are carrying out pilot trials to replace customer-owned supply pipes, including those that are made of lead or are leaking – with benefits of better health outcomes for their customers and potential for reduction in phosphate dosing.

The learning from these schemes is reported to be crucial in informing approaches to deliver water quality improvements and reduce leakage in the future.

Customers are also set also see ‘significant’ benefits from the schemes as Thames Water, Severn Trent Water and South West Water expand their smart metering programmes – helping up to 450,000 customers to manage their water use.

The green recovery final decisions are available on the Ofwat website.