Water companies to invest more than £180m to tackle sewage spills

The investment will support the effort to roll out storm overflow prevention measures by April 2025, ITV News' Aisha Zahid reports

Water companies are to invest more than £180m to tackle sewage spills as part of a fast-tracked investment in overflow prevention measures by April 2025.

The investment includes artificial intelligence systems, accelerated wetland programmes, installing new in-sewer monitors and recruiting and training specialist staff.

The government said it expects the measures to prevent more than 8,000 spills polluting English waterways.

Anglian Water will invest £50 million, Severn Trent will invest £41 million, Southern will invest £10 million, South West will invest £32 million, United Utilities will invest £39 million and Wessex will invest £8 million.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said the investment is part of government efforts to “push for better performance from water companies and hold them to account”.

He said: “The amount of sewage being spilled into our rivers is completely unacceptable and the public rightly expects action.

“This money will mean more cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence, and more specialist staff to detect and reduce spills.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay is expected to announce plans to introduce legislation before the summer recess. Credit: PA

“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.”

The investment will add to the water companies’ previous £3.1 billion investment for the period of 2020 to 2025.

It is the latest move to tackle concerns over levels of pollution being dumped into rivers, lakes and around the coasts from sources including overflow pipes and processing plants, causing harm to wildlife and the health of beachgoers as well as affecting tourism and leisure industries.

Giles Bristow, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage, said: “It’s great to see the Government fast-tracking investment on the decades-old issue of sewage pollution.

“The informed and angry voices of constituents across the UK are clearly making those in power listen and take visible actions to address the sewage scandal.

“Despite today’s welcome announcement, questions still remain on the scale and scope of the Government’s ambitions for our rivers and seas.

“We’ll be watching closely to ensure that it’s the polluters, not the consumer, that pays to clean up this mess.”