Update 8 February 2022
I welcome the Government’s announcement that the water industry regulator, OFWAT, must do more to compel water companies to curb discharges into places like Langstone and Chichester Harbours.
OFWAT will, for the first time, require companies like Southern Water to prioritise action to protect the environment as well as significantly reduce the frequency and volume of sewage discharges from storm overflows. OFWAT will also challenge water companies to show how they will be more ambitious in protecting the environment in the future.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow made the announcement as the Government set OFWAT’s strategic priorities for the next five years. It also follows a meeting I organised where I was joined by neighbouring MPs from the Solent region. My Southern Water Regional Forum co-ordinates action from local MPs, councillors and community groups to keep up the pressure on Southern Water to reduce their discharges.
These new priorities for OFWAT build on the clear direction the Government has already set, such as setting up the Storm Overflows Taskforce, passing the Environment Act to put into law the obligation on water companies to produce and deliver on plans to cut sewage discharges, and taking tougher enforcement action against them, when they fall short. This includes a record £90 million fine against Southern Water.
The health of harbours like Langstone and Chichester are hugely important for local people, and I’ve been working hard on this issue for many years. I welcome the Government making cleaner rivers and harbours a priority and ensuring the regulator OFWAT and Southern Water focus on them too.
Update 16 November 2021
I am welcoming £18millon of investment by Southern Water into improving Storm Overflow capacity at Budds Farm that will increase capacity by 50 per cent.
I have been campaigning for the improvements for several years in order to reduce the frequency and duration of stormwater releases in Langstone Harbour. These happen during times of heavy rainfall when the water companies release stormwater to protect homes from being flooded.
In Parliament, I backed the Government’s new Environment Act which places a new legal duty on water companies for the first time to reduce storm discharges.
As Southern Water announced the plans following the Environment Act’s passage, I visited the wastewater treatment facility in Havant to hear about the planned upgrades and meet Southern Water Chief Executive Ian McAulay.
Budds Farm Wastewater Treatment Works serves nearly 410,000 people living in and around Havant and the wider area and treats almost 109 million litres of wastewater per day.
The infrastructure investment is part of a wider package of measures announced by Southern Water as it aims to meet a target of cutting pollution incidents by 80 per cent over the next four years.
I have been campaigning for improved water quality in Langstone Harbour for several years. I created and launched the Southern Water Regional Forum to put pressure on Southern Water by bringing together MPs, community representatives, officials from the Environment Agency and local government with Southern Water’s Chief Executive to drive improvements to the Harbour.
I therefore welcome this new investment that will make a tangible difference. There is still much more to do to ensure that stormwater releases are eliminated, and I’ll continue my campaigning to protect our harbours.
In its role as a sludge treatment facility (STF) Budds Farm will also be investing in expanding its capacity to store and treat sewage sludge. This is part of Southern Water’s long-term strategic plan to prepare for future population growth and start to build in future capacity. The sewage sludge treated at this site is crucial for local agriculture while this expansion will also result in build ups from smaller treatment sites becoming less likely.
Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s CEO, said: “We welcome Alan Mak MP’s visit to Budds Farm wastewater treatment works today to show him the progress we’re making to improve our wastewater treatment infrastructure. The south-east of England has a rapidly growing population, and we must ensure we can serve our customers by investing to ensure our assets are fit for future needs.
“Along with an £18m investment in physical infrastructure we are also laser-focused on network digitization to help us monitor in real-time network interruptions.”
Update 21 October 2021
I've been campaigning to reduce Southern Water’s discharges for several years – and I continued my work this week.
The Government’s Environment Bill places a new legal duty on water companies to phase out discharges, and to produce a plan to do so backed up by new investment. I've been supporting the Bill in Parliament this week and will continue to do so. I expect it to become law around Christmas time.
Locally, I came up with the idea for a Southern Water Regional Forum that brings together local MPs, councillors, community representatives, the Environment Agency, Southern Water and other stakeholders. We have to work together on a regional basis to tackle this issue.
This Forum keeps up the pressure on Southern Water, and it was praised for its work by the Environment Minister Rebecca Pow during the debate on the Environment Bill. You can watch the extract here: www.Facebook.com/AlanMakHavant or https://twitter.com/AlanMakMP/status/1451183140286787586
I work especially closely with Penny Mordaunt and Gillian Keegan on this issue, and our next Forum meeting is in November.
By setting up the Forum and keeping up the pressure on Southern Water, we are ahead of the game when compared to other parts of the country.
I will continue working hard on this issue and I will post updates about my work on this issue on my website: www.alanmak.org.uk/SouthernWater
Update 20 October 2021 (please note this update was delayed due to the pausing of all social media activity/MP activity as a mark of respect to Sir David Amess)
Some residents have contacted me regarding the “abnormal situation” notice that was issued by the Environment Agency (EA) for Hayling Seafront during the period around 8-10 October 2021.
Over the last few days I have been in contact with the EA, Southern Water, Havant Borough Council and DEFRA (the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to find out more, and make representations on behalf of local residents. The EA have now got back to me.
The EA have confirmed to me in writing that they “received an unusually high number of reports of sewage around Hayling and Southsea” last Friday and Saturday.
The EA added: “As a result of our investigations, both desk and field based, we believe the reports were due to natural causes (such as decaying algae) discolouring the water and causing odours and we have removed the advice against bathing in the area. We are aware of the sensitivities in many open water locations and we will continue to take informed decisions that take account of the public and environment pollution risk and any local circumstances.”
“We therefore believe the reports of sewage are likely to have been false alarms on this occasion.”
“Environment officers have been out on site over the weekend and found no evidence of sewage. If members of the public see any sign of pollution, please call our free incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60. We do not use social media channels to engage in discussion regarding pollution incidents…”
I’m continuing to work hard to improve our water quality in both Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour. I will continue working on this issue and others at the Southern Water Regional Forum that will be held next month. I founded the Forum, and I am pleased a range of local MPs, councils and community representatives from our area, and the EA, are continuing to work together to keep up the pressure on Southern Water.
I will post updates on my social media, and on my dedicated website page: https://www.alanmak.org.uk/SouthernWater
Update 20 July 2021
Alan has launched a new Forum alongside other MPs from Hampshire, West Sussex and the Isle of Wight to drive improvements in water quality in Langstone and Chichester Harbours and the wider Solent region.
These provide unique habitats for plants and wildlife, as well as being used extensively by water sports enthusiasts.
The MPs brought together local community representatives and officials from the Environment Agency and local government with Southern Water’s Chief Executive to discuss the water company’s plans to phase out storm water releases and improve local water quality in Langstone and Chichester Harbours and the wider Solent region. The Forum also heard from Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, who set out the steps the Government is already taking, such as implementing a legal phase out of storm water releases, mandating improvements in the water efficiency of homes and requiring housebuilders to mitigate the effects of new developments.
Another live issue was the release of stormwater into Langstone and Chichester Harbours by Southern Water. During and after periods of heavy rainfall, their systems can release releases into local harbours causing concerns for the health of harbour users and the environment. MPs called on Southern Water to set out their plan to phase out releases to comply with the new legal obligations set out in the new Environment Act.
Southern Water’s CEO Ian McAuley said he was committed to reducing the frequency of releases, and pointed to their current work with Natural England and universities to build a new digital ‘baseline’ assessment system, expected to be up and running within a year.
The new baseline assessment tool will be key to accurately identifying the sources of pollution within the harbours, providing the partnership the ability to implement targeted solutions and track the impacts accordingly, to tackle the issue of pollution and protect these precious natural habitats.
Studies are also underway to improve drainage through nature-based solutions.
Speaking at the Forum, Mr McAulay said: “The systems we have in place today are not the systems we need to get to where we want to be tomorrow, for the benefit of our customers and the environment. You have my full support and I really like the fact that people are talking about water quality.”
Mr Mak said: ‘I’ve been working on this issue for several years, and having proposed the creation of the Forum I’m pleased Southern Water are taking this issue seriously and working constructively to improve the health of our harbours and the wider Solent. However, the Forum’s MPs recognise there’s more work to do and we are working together to continue pressing Southern Water to improve water quality in our region”.
The MPs plan to follow up with another meeting of the new Forum this autumn, to track progress and press for further action.
Update 9 July 2021
Alan Mak MP has welcomed the record fine that was imposed on Southern Water for historic illegal discharges which included into Langstone Harbour.
The offences were discovered as part of the Environment Agency's largest ever criminal investigation. In total, the water company was fined £90million for discharges into 17 sites in Hampshire, Kent and West Sussex between 2010 and 2015.
Alan Mak MP said: "Southern Water deserve to be punished because their historic behaviour showed total disregard for our environment and they rightly received a record fine. The Government is passing a law to make water companies phase out discharges, and I'll continue my campaign to keep up the pressure on Southern Water to clean up their behaviour and our local waters."
Update 8 April 2021
Southern Water have announced a new £5million environmental improvement fund to improve water quality at Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour, following Alan’s campaigning.
This will be spent on initiatives that deliver both nature-based solutions and environment net-gain for both harbours.
The full announcement can be found here: https://www.southernwater.co.uk/the-news-room/the-media-centre/2021/april/southern-water-commits-to-action-and-investment-to-improve-our-harbours
Alan welcomed the investment, commenting: “I’ve campaigned for several years to improve water quality in Langstone and Chichester Harbours, and I look forward to continuing my work Southern Water, neighbouring MPs, community representatives and statutory agencies.
“Southern Water will play a key role in reducing discharges and ending storm overflows, and this investment is a good first step. I look forward to their detailed plan setting out how they will meet the new legal obligations set by the Government.”
Update 29 March 2021
Local MP Alan Mak has welcomed a Government announcement for new legislation to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows.
The Havant Constituency MP has played a leading role in the national campaign to improve our coastal harbours and bathing waters. That included supporting the objectives of the Sewage (Inland Waters) Private Members Bill brought forward by Philip Dunne MP earlier this year.
Now Alan’s campaigning work in Westminster has been successful as the Government has confirmed it will turn into law several key policies that will make our rivers and harbours cleaner. The new legislation will create three key duties to deliver some of the changes needed to improve our water environment:
- a duty on government to publish a plan by September 2022 to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows;
- a duty on government to report to Parliament on progress on implementing the plan; and
- a duty on water companies to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.
This builds on the work already underway by the Storm Overflows Taskforce, set up in September 2020 to bring together government, the water industry, regulators and environmental NGOs to accelerate progress in this area.
Locally, Alan has been keeping up the pressure on Southern Water and is in the coming months launching a new regional forum. This will bring together key invited stakeholders from across our region to work 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.
The commitment by Southern Water follows the announcement of the Government’s Storm Overflows Taskforce – made up of Defra, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Consumer Council for Water, Blueprint for Water and Water UK – which agreed to set a long-term goal of eliminating discharges from storm overflows.
Mr Mak said: “Having campaigned on this issue locally for many years, and campaigned alongside Philip Dunne MP in Parliament for a reduction in the use of storm overflows through the Sewage (Inland) Waters Bill, I am delighted that the Government is bringing forward this new legislation. These new laws will give further protection for users of Langstone Harbour and Chichester Harbour all-year round.
“Now the Government has made this announcement, I will continue to put pressure on Southern Water to improve performance and publish their plan to end the use of storm overflows. I’m also proposing a new Regional Forum to work with them to improve our local water quality.”
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Putting new commitments into law is an important step forward to cut down the water sector’s reliance on storm overflows.
“This step is one of many – but an important one nonetheless – to provide greater protection for our water environment and the wildlife that relies on it.”
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.”