Learning how we handle our sewage and wastewater has been one of the more eye opening parts of being an MP, and something I never imagined spending so much time working on. Many of the challenges facing our rivers, harbours, and coastal areas are not just sewage-related, but involve everything from agriculture, road run-off and chemicals in the water. Therefore, to really improve our natural environment we need a joined-up approach.
Last week I chaired the third Southern Water MP forum that I set up with Penny Mordaunt MP and Alan Mak MP to bring together all the MP’s across the region in an effort to hold the water company to account and support improvement work. At the meeting, I invited Richard Craven, Chichester Harbour Conservancy Director, to speak about the amazing work he is doing in a group called CHaPRoN. The group brings together the Environment Agency, Natural England, Sussex IFCA, RSPB, Southern Water, and other coastal partners to address some of the key issues facing the harbour. Their action plan includes over 100 projects, covering eight key areas such as salt marsh restorations and nature recovery on land and sea.
Southern Water updated us on some of their current work to increase capacity as part of their £72million investment into the Solent Region. They also spoke about five pilot projects that are developing innovative ways to reduce system pressures. They are seeking to increase capacity and slow water entering the system through new technology including smart water butts, and even smarter approaches to fix broken pipework without the need to dig up the old pipes.
These improvements are being driven by new legislation the Government have brought in through the Environment Act meaning water companies have to be more honest and transparent and publish near real-time data on discharges. Most importantly they’ll have to progressively reduce the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows. This has already led Southern Water to announce an 80% reduction in their discharges by 2030.
There is currently a consultation on the Government set targets, and I encourage you to have your say – I have published a link to the consultation on my Facebook page (@conservatives.g.keegan), as well as, in my newsletter, which you can sign up for at www.gilliankeegan.com. Improving water quality is vital not just to ensure we have clean water to enjoy, whether swimming, sailing or something else, but for all plants and animals that rely on us taking action so they can survive and thrive.