Southern Water is launching a task force this week to cut storm overflows by 80 per cent by 2030.
This is part of the company’s zero tolerance approach to pollution and is part of wider programme of investment to deliver a step change in water quality in the area.
Storm overflows are heavily regulated releases of wastewater during rainfall to protect people’s homes and businesses and other properties from the misery of flooding. They are an integral part of the Victorian-era sewage system. Storm overflows typically occur during periods of heavy rainfall and are more than 95 per cent rainwater.
Southern Water’s customers have made it clear the use of storm releases is no longer acceptable. And the company’s open and transparent storm release data – available in near real-time on its industry-leading Beachbuoy service – has had an important role in making people more aware of when and where these releases happen.
The task force will work in tandem with Southern Water’s £1.5 billion investment programme, which is on track to reduce by 80 per cent all pollution incidents by 2025. It will take a cross-sector approach to working with local stakeholders to find innovative practical solutions to cut overflows.
Focusing on nature-based solutions – such as ponds and wetlands, soak aways and rain gardens – alongside an increase in storage has the potential to become a game changer. The most efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly way to cut the use of storm overflows is to separate rain water from the sewer system. Work by Southern Water in the summer showed that by reducing the amount of rainwater run-off from roads and roofs entering the pipeline system by around 40 per would mean an 80 per cent reduction in storm overflows.
Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s CEO, said:” There is a growing call to take action to reduce the frequency and impact of storm overflows. That is a task of scale and complexity and needs multi-sector collaboration and a join up of policy to make it happen, which of course appears difficult today.
“However, just twenty years ago, the quality of our coastal waters needed to improve drastically. Today, reflecting significant investment driven by focused policy, all 83 of our regional bathing waters meet strict European Standards and a total of 78 are rated excellent or good.
“Delivering a similar transformation in the reduction of storm releases is the logical next step and we believe this can be achieved. We will play our part in leading and driving the collaboration and investment needed.”