The water sector has unveiled a new green recovery framework that will funnel £2.7bn into initiatives that reduce flood risk, improve water quality and cut emissions on the road to net-zero.
Water companies Severn Trent Water, South Staffs Water, South West Water, Thames Water and United Utilities will invest more than £790m, on top of their existing five-year PR19 packages, while seven other English water firms will funnel £1.9bn in additional statutory environment schemes by 2025.
In total, the water sector will invest £2.7bn as part of a green recovery framework.
Ofwat, in collaboration with Defra, the Environment Agency, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, and CCW have approved the new package.
Ofwat’s interim chief executive David Black said: “This huge package of investment will help the environment while providing a significant economic stimulus and offer thousands of extra jobs and training opportunities – delivering a boost when it’s needed most.
“I look forward to seeing the companies delivering on this ambition and bringing forward lasting environmental improvements for current and future generations.”
The green recovery package will enable the sector to tackle an array of environmental issues. Severn Trent Water, for example, will invest £169m to make improvements to water quality in 500km of rivers, while also working with South West Water and United Utilities to trial two new bathing rivers and reducing damage from storm overflows. Severn Trent Water will also work with local authorities to reduce flooding through new management plans and urban landscape solutions.
The water firms will also aim to introduce low-carbon methods to treating drinking water, which could also reduce reliance on chemicals use. The organisations will also expand smart metering programmes to help around 450,000 better manage their water usage.
Late last year, the UK’s major water companies unveiled a routemap detailing how solar installations, electric vehicles (EVs) and biomethane production will enable the sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2030.
The UK’s nine major water and sewerage providers, including Yorkshire Water, Anglian Water and United Utilities will use the Routemap to create a net-zero water supply for customers, in a move that could reduce sectoral emissions by more than 10 million tonnes.
The Routemap estimates a potential investment of up to £4bn, based on currently available technologies.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “This package of investment will be vital in driving forward our green recovery. Water companies must step up and deliver on the most pressing issues facing our environment – including water quality. I am particularly pleased to see the increase in funding to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows following a call to action from the Storm Overflows Taskforce.
“I look forward to seeing these schemes bring about lasting improvements, alongside the measures being taken by Government through a range of vehicles including the Environment Bill, as we build back greener from the pandemic.”