To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what powers his Department has to require water companies to invest in flood defences in areas affected by flooding; and if he will make a statement.
The Government’s broad approach to resilience of infrastructure from natural hazards (including flooding) is that responsibility lies principally with owners and operators. While there are no specific requirements for water companies to invest in flood defences to ensure their assets are flood resilient, they are required to ensure clean drinking water supplies and so should protect their assets from hazards accordingly. They are also responsible for managing the risks of flooding from surface water and foul or combined sewer systems providing drainage from buildings and yards.
The 2016 National Flood Resilience Review requires water utilities to develop plans for permanently improving resilience of service provision to significant local communities from the most severe flood events. “Resilience in the round” is a key theme of the water sector Price Review 2019 (PR19), with Ofwat’s methodology and performance expectations for water companies including specific commitments on resilience to drought and flooding.
Defra expects Ofwat to challenge water companies to make sure that they assess the resilience of their system and infrastructure against the full range of potential hazards and threats and take proportionate steps to improve resilience where required. This could include promoting, adopting or maintaining sustainable drainage systems or co-investing in flood risk management, investing in permanent defences to protect key assets, as well as working creatively with partners “upstream” as a means of effectively draining their area and delivering multiple benefits where possible.