Following periods of heavy rainfall in August, parts of England saw surface water flooding which brought the issue of sewage discharge into sharp focus one again.
The River Cherwell is a much-loved stretch of water that flows through North Oxfordshire, rising in Northamptonshire and ending in Oxford. Many of us locally, including my own family, enjoy bathing in the river and its waterways. We are all understandably concerned about what is being done to safeguard our river and limit sewage discharge into it.
The Government’s recently introduced storm overflows discharge reduction plan sets stringent new targets to protect people and the environment. Through the passage of the landmark Environment Act last year, we also placed a commitment to deliver a resilient and sustainable water supply, and significantly reduce the frequency and volume of discharges from storm overflows, on a statutory footing.
Some of the new duties placed on water companies include:
- a legal requirement to make progressive reductions in the adverse impacts of storm overflows;
- a legal requirement to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works;
- a legal requirement directly on water companies and the Environment Agency to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis;
- a legal requirement directly on water companies to publish near real time information - within one hour- on the operation of storm overflows.
The Government has been clear that while storm overflows are necessary to avoid sewage backing up in our streets, water companies should work towards ending their reliance on them. While I welcome the huge progress that has been made so far there is still more work to be done.
I have written to the Chief Executive of Thames Water, Sarah Bentley, requesting a meeting to discuss the issue in more detail and understand what work Thames Water is doing to deliver on the new duties placed on water companies.