Posted: Wed 12th Jul 2023

Rise in pollution incidents leads to rating downgrade for Welsh Water

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jul 12th, 2023


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Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, the largest water company in Wales, has been downgraded to a two-star rating, indicating a need for improvement, by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) due to a decline in environmental performance.

The company experienced a disappointing 2021, and this was further compounded by a 9% increase in pollution incidents in 2022.

The incidents with high or significant impact also saw an uptick, rising from three to five.

Alarmingly, the company failed to improve on self-reporting these incidents to NRW, with a decline of 7% from 2021.

Water companies are expected to swiftly self-report incidents to prevent escalation and implement mitigation measures.

In total, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water was responsible for 89 sewage pollution incidents in 2022, with 84 categorised as having a low environmental impact and five assessed as having a high or significant impact.

Reacting to the performance, Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of NRW, called for an urgent ‘step change in performance that is so clearly needed and called for by us and the public.’

“It is very disappointing that Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s performance has continued to decline,” Ms Pillman stated, adding, “Water companies need to take urgent and sustained action to address the significant pollution incidents we are seeing in our waters.”

She expressed concern about the additional pressure on the ageing sewer network due to climate and nature emergencies and stressed the urgent need for adequate investment and a robust performance management framework from water companies.

Expectations for improvements are laid out in the report, which includes reducing the number of sewerage pollution incidents year on year, halting all significant pollution incidents, and reversing the decline in the self-reporting of incidents.

Meanwhile, Hafren Dyfrdwy, another water and wastewater services supplier in Wales, was also reviewed. Although not subject to a star rating due to its smaller operating area, it showed progress in reducing pollution incidents.

However, NRW highlighted the company’s need to improve self-reporting incidents, emphasising that maintaining environmental standards requires continuous effort from all water service providers.

In May, Welsh Water issued an apology for sewage spills which have impacted rivers and coastal waters in Wales and pledged a huge investment plan to put things right. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Earlier this year water industry regulator Ofwat named Welsh Water as one of the six worst-performing water firms in England and Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The watchdog criticised the industry for “falling short” in multiple areas, with particular attention on Welsh Water’s consistent sewage spills. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Data showed that Welsh Water had discharged sewage into rivers, lakes, and the sea around Wales for almost 600,000 hours throughout last year. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

This figure accounted for over 25% of all hours of discharges into waterways across England and Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Furthermore, the company registered more than 83,000 sewage spills in 2022, with a staggering 77,000 categorised as “significant”. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Pete Perry, Welsh Water’s Chief Executive, said: “We are always very sorry for any environmental harm that we cause linked to delivering our wastewater services.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“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.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Following the apology, Welsh Water has unveiled an investment strategy to improve the health of rivers across Wales, pledging to commit £2.24 billion to the cause. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The water company has published a ‘Manifesto for Rivers in Wales’, detailing its investment plans and demonstrating a commitment to environmental sustainability. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Welsh Water is yet to respond to the announcement by Natural Resources Wales.

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