Update 23 February 2021
Local MP Alan Mak met Southern Water CEO to press the water company on its plans to reduce discharges into Langstone and Chichester Harbours.
At the meeting, Southern Water has reaffirmed its commitment to meeting new Government targets to improve water quality following the meeting held with Mr Mak.
The Government’s Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – has set a long-term goal of eliminating discharges from storm overflows. The same group has also recently been instrumental in introducing a framework for the creation of integrated Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans which are currently being developed.
Havant Constituency MP Mr Mak has played a leading role in the national campaign to improve our coastal harbours and bathing waters. As part of those efforts, he’s launching a regional forum bring together other MPs, councils and community groups from across our region to with Southern Water to improve local water quality.
This new forum will build on the work already achieved by Mr Mak’s Hayling Island Environment Forum over the last two years, where Southern Water has shared the improvements it has made with its voluntary Beachbuoy spill notification system.
During the meeting with Mr Mak on February 18th, Southern Water CEO Ian McAulay outlined what he described as the “holistic, cross sectoral approaches needed to enhance the health of bathing waters, rivers and water quality in harbours”.
Stormwater releases are designed to prevent homes and properties from flooding during periods of very heavy rainfall when the capacity of the system can be exceeded. However, a combination of climate change bringing significantly more periods of intense rainfall, alongside more surface water entering into combined sewer systems, has meant increasing use of these overflows, especially during the winter months. Southern Water say that The Task Force had been advised that it would take up to 25 years and around £100Bn of investment to phase out storm overflows entirely and ensure that wastewater sewage is separated from rainwater.
On the call with Mr Mak, Southern Water confirmed it will share the relevant key work and improvements it is making as part of its business plan. This includes reducing the amount of surface water from getting into and overloading sewer pipes, especially during times of heavy rainfall. It will also highlight the key areas where there are opportunities for more joined up approaches such as in the introduction of Drainage Management Plans.
Mr Mak said: “Having campaigned on this issue for several years, I’m keeping up the pressure on Southern Water to reduce discharges and produce a new plan explaining how they will meet the Government’s new targets. My meeting with Southern Water’s Chief Executive was encouraging and I am pleased that they have agreed to both publish a plan and also take part in a new stakeholder forum I am creating to tackle stormwater discharges into Langstone and Chichester Harbour”.
“There is more work to be done and it remains a long-term goal to ensure that we reduce the reliance on combined sewer overflows. I look forward to seeing Southern Water’s plan to tackle this very important issue.”
Southern Water CEO Ian McAulay said: “We welcome the Taskforce’s overall goal to eliminate stormwater releases. This is a matter that needs to be looked at holistically, with authorities and key organisations working collaboratively to drive the change we all want.
“It is not a problem that is going to be resolved overnight. It will need many parties working together to make the biggest amount of progress in the shortest period of time. We look forward to a clear pathway being established via the taskforce, and progressive change in legislation and governance driving ever higher standards.
“With all that in mind, we’re delighted to be part of the regional stakeholders group being launched by Alan Mak MP, working together to help improve water quality, and ensure a resilient water future for all.”
Update 8 February 2021
Southern Water’s Chief Executive Ian McAulay has responded to Alan's letter. Read the letter in full here. He’s agreed to a meeting to discuss further, and Alan plans to ask him and his team to engage with stakeholders from across our region as they set out plans to meet the new target of phasing out discharges & upgrading infrastructure.
26 January 2021
Local MP Alan Mak has pressured Southern Water to meet new targets set out by the Government to improve water quality and reduce stormwater discharges.
The Havant Constituency MP has been campaigning on the issue alongside senior backbench MP Philip Dunne, who introduced a Private Members Bill on the issue in the House of Commons. Mr Dunne, who is Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, praised Mr Mak for his efforts to get the Government to support the objectives of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill that aims to reduce the amount of stormwater discharges, including in areas such as Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour.
Now a new Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – has agreed to set a long-term goal to eliminate harmful discharges from storm overflows.
Storm overflows are designed to be used during extreme weather to prevent sewers becoming overloaded with a combination of sewage and rainwater, releasing diluted wastewater rather than letting it back up into people’s homes. However, rising rainfall, leaks in pipes, insufficient rainwater storage capacity and other environmental factors has meant increasing use of these overflows, especially during the winter months.
Following the announcement that a new taskforce is being created, Mr Mak is writing to Southern Water’s Chief Executive asking how they plan to eliminate storm overflows, as well as meet the recommendations that have been made. Mr Mak is meeting Southern Water’s Chief Executive next month as well Environment Minister Rebecca Pow to lobby for further investment into our local infrastructure.
Mr Mak said: “As a strong supporter of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Bill’s objectives I am delighted that the Government is taking tough action to eliminate harmful discharges from storm overflows. We have a duty to protect our natural environment, especially areas such as Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour, which is why I will be continuing to keep up the pressure on Southern Water to meet the targets set by the Storm Overflows Taskforce.”
Mr Mak has been engaging with Southern Water for several years on the issue, including setting-up and chairing the Hayling Island Environment Forum which brings together local stakeholders, and focuses on tackling the issue specifically in Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour. That has already secured several improvements including the upgrading of the Beachbouy electronic notification system to better inform Harbour users of potential pollution events as well as securing additional testing of the bathing waters at Beachlands for the 2021 summer season.
Mr Dunne added: “I know Alan Mak MP has worked on this issue for several years with energy and commitment, and I am delighted he is supporting the objectives of my Bill. Alan is one of several committed colleagues working with me to get key proposals in the Bill adopted by water companies and others to help, over time, improve water quality locally too. There are no quick, easy or cheap solutions but Alan is working hard on this issue with local stakeholders, including through the Hayling Island Environment Forum that he created, and I commend him and all those working together in this Forum for their patience, hard work and long-standing commitment.”