Taskforce sets goal to end harm from storm overflows

Read the Task Force full announcement here.

Read Surfers Against Sewage response here.

Last Summer, the government formed the Storm Overflow Taskforce with representatives from DEFRA, the Environment Agency and Ofwat as well as water Company directors, and Blueprint for Water (a group of environmental NGOs) to look for solutions to sewage pollution.

Today, the Taskforce announced their goal to eliminate harm from storm overflows and set out their first steps on this journey.

Included in the announcement were a number of commitments by water companies including:

  • To make real-time data on sewage discharges available at bathing sites all year-round
  • To publish on their website how many times they have used CSOs to pump raw sewage into the environment each year

Water companies also committed £1.1 billion over the next five years to improve the monitoring and management of storm overflows including improving 798 storm overflows. Water companies will also accelerate work to install monitoring devices to create a complete picture of their activity by 2023.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said:

“Making sure we have clean rivers is an absolute priority and I have been clear that I want to cut down on the water sector’s reliance on storm overflows.

“The Storm Overflows Taskforce, established last year, is working urgently on options to tackle this issue, which demonstrates a collective commitment for change in this critical area.

“Our ambitious Environment Bill already sets out how we will tackle various sources of water pollution. I look forward to working with Philip Dunne and others on how we can accelerate progress in this area.”

Campaigners have widely welcomed the announcement and hailed the progress being made on provision of year-round real-time water quality information, as well as publicly available annual data from water companies about the sewage discharges they are responsible for.

However, environmentalists have highlighted that the announcement does not go far enough in tackling the long term causes of sewage pollution and falls far short of the measures proposed in the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill.

Amy Slack, Head of Campaigns and Policy said,

‘We welcome today’s announcement from the Storm Overflow Taskforce as their first step in helping to tackle Sewage Pollution. We are especially happy to see water companies commit to provide real-time monitoring data all year-round. This is vital to allow water users to make informed decisions about when and where they choose to surf or swim.

The announcement however falls short of the calls that almost 50,000 of us made to the Government as part of our #EndSewagePollution petition. If we really are going to eliminate the harm caused by sewage pollution we need to see rapid action from government, business and regulators to eliminate the long term causes of pollution.’

The taskforce was set up in response to the #EndSewagePollution campaign led by Surfers Against Sewage alongside NGOs, local campaign groups, national governing bodies, and media as well as almost 50,000 ocean activists across the country who signed the #EndSewagePollution petition to demand beautiful, clean and safe water to enjoy for sport, recreation and recovery of nature. This announcement comes on the day in which Phillip Dunne MPs Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill was due to have its second reading in Parliament.