Defra Announce £180m of Investment to Prevent Sewage Spills

The Conservative’s general election campaign in the West Country continues, now including spending promises as well as mere rhetoric.

According to this morning’s press release from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP:

Fast-tracked investment of £180m over the next 12 months is expected to prevent more than 8000 sewage spills polluting English waterways, the Environment Secretary announced today.    

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.

It also follows the recent ban on bonuses for water company executives where firms have committed serious criminal breaches, subject to Ofwat consultation, and the quadrupling of the Environment Agency’s regulatory capacity, enabling them to carry out 4,000 water company inspections by the end of the next financial year.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:  

  • The amount of sewage being spilled into our rivers is completely unacceptable and the public rightly expects action. This £180 million of accelerated investment, which will stop more than 8,000 sewage spills over the next year, is a welcome step forward as we continue to push for better performance from water companies and hold them to account.  
  • This money will mean more cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence, and more specialist staff to detect and reduce spills.
  • Today’s announcement builds on significant work by this government to protect and strengthen our waters with increased investment, stronger regulation and tougher enforcement action.

To be frank Steve, rather more natural intelligence should have been applied to solving this problem over several decades. Here is South West Water’s latest map of sewage pollution incidents around the coast of Devon and Cornwall:

Perhaps you could ask the EA’s AI to let me know how many sewage spills there were in total across South West England last year?

Commenting on the announcement on LBC, River Action’s James Wallace suggests that:

“The funding, as I understand it, is not actually coming from the Government, which after all would mean from us, the taxpayers. It’s actually coming from bill payers.”

Jim Hunt

I've been programming computers since the late 60s. In those days they didn't have computers in schools, so we had to build our own. What can I program next? Will I have to build it first?

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