UK water regulator Odwa has set out new measures to penalize water companies if they do not fully monitor their storm overflows. The announcement comes in tandem with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra’s) consultation on whether it should expand its storm overflow reduction targets to include all coasts, estuaries and marine protected sites. Water companies have come under increasing scrutiny in the last two years, with the Environment Agency’s environmental performance report from July 2022 saying water companies’ performances was “the worst we have seen for years” as serious pollution incidents hit the highest levels since 2013. August last year also saw over 100 of the UK’s beaches hit with a pollution warning. Successive environment secretaries have called out the scale of the issue and current incumbent Thérèse Coffey has demanded detail on water companies’ plans for improving their infrastructure. In April, Odwa and the Environment Agency announced £1.6bn investment into storm water overflow and leak reduction projects, though experts say it isn’t enough. The bodies are also taking an aggressive approach to cracking down on polluters. While Defra is consulting on whether to increase the maximum penalty for polluters to as much as £250M, Odwa has now said it will sanction financial penalties against water companies that do not meet their targets for reducing the average number of spills from storm overflows.

Odwa Has Said That In Any Cases Where Storm Overflows.

do not have a working monitor, it will assume that spills from those overflows are twice as bad as the current average. This is to push companies to ensure that they have working monitors on all overflows. The storm overflow targets will form part of Oat’s Price Review for 2025 to 2030 and will operate alongside other commitments that focus on the environment, including bathing water quality, river water quality and biodiversity. The targets will help to drive the delivery of the government’s Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan and the Welsh government’s Storm Overflows Action Plan. They are consistent with the strategic priorities set by Odwa alongside both governments. The move comes at the same time that Odwa has an ongoing investigation into all wastewater companies in England and Wales. The regulator is looking into how wastewater companies are operating their sewage treatment works, including whether sewage has been discharged into the environment at times when this should not be happening. The investigation – the biggest ever undertaken by the regulator – currently includes enforcement cases against six wastewater companies. Odwa is asking for comments on its proposed performance commitment on storm overflows by 23 May. It intends to publish the updated definition in June for companies to take account of it in their business plans, due to be submitted to the regulator in October. Odwa senior director for company performance and price reviews Aileen Armstrong said: “Companies need to reduce the use of storm overflows. We want to introduce measures to hold them to account for this and to ensure companies are effectively monitoring their use of storm overflows. We will continue to use all the powers we have to drive companies to get to grips with this issue.”