To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the impact of raw sewage discharges on the river Weaver at Northwich; and what steps he is taking to reduce those discharges.
The impact of the storm overflows that discharge to the River Weaver, including those in Northwich, was last assessed through modelling in 2013. This led to three storm overflow discharges being improved in United Utilities Water improvement programme for 2015-20, and a further storm overflow discharge is being improved during the current, 2020-25, programme.
In addition, monitors that record the duration of spills were installed on the majority of storm overflows in Northwich during 2015-20. Data from these monitors will inform United Utilities Water’s work to investigate further action that may be taken in the current price programme (2020-25).
The Government has been clear that the current level of sewage discharges from storm overflows is unacceptable. That is why earlier this year, the Government consulted on a draft of its new strategic policy statement to the industry’s independent regulator Ofwat, which set out that we expect it to incentivise water companies to take steps to “significantly reduce the frequency and volume of sewage discharges from storm overflows, so they operate infrequently”. This publication strongly influences investment decisions and is one of Government’s key tools in driving action from water companies. The Environment Act now contains a new duty directly on water companies to reduce progressively the adverse impacts of storm overflow discharges, making the expectation we have already set out in the draft policy statement unequivocal in law.