The government has announced that fast-tracked investment of £180m over the next 12 months is expected to prevent more than 8,000 sewage spills polluting English waterways.

According to Defra, it follows the Secretary of State directing water and sewage companies last December to measurably reduce sewage spills over the next year by accelerating commitments and delivering new funding.

Examples of measures include investment in AI systems to help manage storm loads, the installation of thousands of new in-sewer monitors to check flows and spot blockages early, the recruitment and training of specialist staff, and accelerated wetland construction programmes.

These new funding commitments are in addition to water companies’ existing £3.1 billion investment into storm overflow improvements for this price review period (2020-2025), as well as their ongoing annual investment to maintain the performance of the existing network.

The accelerated improvements, which will be delivered by April 2025, support the targets under the government’s Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan. This is driving the largest infrastructure investment in water company history, estimated at £60 billion over the next 25 years.

However, there was criticism in some quarters as it appears that Thames Water is absent from the industry’s £180m anti-pollution drive, with the company quoted as saying that it is unable to accelerate its investment despite the government request.

The water industry in England, through Water UK, has published a National Storm Overflows Plan setting out almost 9,000 improvements to reduce spills from storm overflows. Water UK says the Plan meets or exceeds all Government targets and represents the most expansive programme for overflows in the world.

There is a report, which outlines the contents of water companies’ proposals, results and timeline; there is also a link to an interactive map, which shows the current plan for every single storm overflow in England. This allows you to filter by water company, catchment, river basin and type of water body, among others, and also provides a high-level view of planned investment, forecast impact, and expected solution.

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