With party conference season coming to an end and a general election on the horizon, it’s worth looking at what a new government might mean for the water sector.

The Labour Party said it would empower the water regulator Ofwat to ban the payment of bonuses to water bosses who are found to pump significant levels of raw sewage into rivers, lakes and seas. Kier Starmer’s speech stressed “No more bonuses for people pumping sewage into our rivers”.

The Lib Dems policy paper Tackling the Nature Crisis included a number of proposals including:

  • stringent targets and deadlines for water companies to end sewage discharges in time to halt the decline of biodiversity by 2030, ensuring that no sewage overflows are discharging in sensitive areas by that time.
  • A clear requirement to prioritise nature-based solutions wherever they are a viable alternative to engineered options.
  • A Sewage Tax on water companies profits to fund the cleanup of waterways.
  • Abolish Ofwat and replace it with a new regulator with significantly strengthened powers to hold the companies accountable for discharging raw sewage, fixing leaks and restricting dividends and bonuses for water companies that fail to clean up our rivers.
  • A strict ban on abstraction from chalk streams and the aquifers that feed them, except at the highest environmental flow rates
  • A system of nutrient budgeting in English catchments.
  • New ‘blue flag’ standards for rivers, streams and lakes
  • The transformation of water companies into public benefit entities with local green groups on boards.

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