Welsh Water: What are the plans to make our rivers and beaches cleaner amid sewage concerns?

  • The company's Chief Executive thinks giving up his bonus this year is a "substantial gesture"

Welsh Water has apologised for sewage getting into rivers and coastal waters and has published plans to make Wales' waters cleaner.

There were more than 90,000 sewage overflows across the country last year.

In response, the company said it will spend more than £2 billion over the next seven years to tackle the issue.

The Chief Executive of Welsh Water said the company is "very sorry for any environmental harm" caused by sewage in rivers and sea water.

Peter Perry, Welsh Water’s Chief Executive, was asked why he has not given back some of his previous bonuses in light of the sewage issues.

He said: "I think the gesture we're making this year, which is substantial, is adequate in hopefully showing our commitment to improving things."

What are some of Welsh Water's plans?

  • By January 2024, people wanting to swim in waters across Wales will be able to go to the Welsh Water website to see near real-time (within one hour) warnings of combined storm overflows

  • Improving storm overflows with £140m being invested between 2020-2025 with a further £420m planned from 2025 to 2030

  • Investing an additional £60m specifically to reduce phosphorus, which can cause algae growth and be harmful, in five failing Special Area of Conservation (SAC) rivers

  • Tackling the combined storm overflows that are 'having the biggest environmental impact,' moving 100% to the ‘very low or no harm’ category by 2040 – the estimated cost is £4bn

Recent figures from Natural Resources Wales and England's Environment Agency showed that in a single year, waterways had sewage pumped into them for at least 3.4 million hours, which is equivalent to 388 years.

In a statement, Mr Perry said the company is "always very sorry for any environmental harm" that it causes.

A farmer from Haverfordwest told ITV News last year that he can often "smell" the Cleddau Estuary, adding it is "toxic". Credit: Peter Richards

Mr Perry added: "We absolutely understand and accept public concern about any sewage pollution impacting our rivers and coastal waters in Wales and so improving river water quality is our absolute priority. We will do everything we can as fast as we can, tackling first where we can make the biggest difference. We will not shy away from this issue.

"The Manifesto for Rivers in Wales responds directly to the First Minister’s calls at last year’s Phosphate Summit for every sector to own their contribution to the pressures facing Welsh rivers, with additional investment committed specifically to reduce phosphorous in the five failing Special Area of Conservation rivers – the Wye, Usk, Teifi, Cleddau and Dee rivers."

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