Wastewater treatment

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Industry experts have called for the prioritisation of work to better understand and remove surface water without it entering overburdened sewers as a key challenge of climate change resilience. The chief executive of Thames and Northumbrian Water agree that the sector needs to work harder, and collaborate further on managing surface water.
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Consumer research shows water companies are increasingly being seen as the primary culprits when it comes to river pollution, yet public awareness of the work they are doing to mitigate these impacts is actually dropping. Ruth Williams asks why the water sector has struggled to make its voice heard.
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As inflation rises it will “flatter shareholder returns” and “in turn question the legitimacy of the sector”, Jonson Cox has warned water companies, as he suggested shareholder returns could grow by 65% over the next three years. The outgoing chair of Ofwat warned that: "We talk about citizen science but I’m sure we will have citizen finance too.”
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Untreated sewage has become seen by the public as the biggest cause of river pollution ahead of other contributors such as litter, fly-tipping and commercial waste, according to a new report by CCW. The consumer watchdog said its research found an increasing public awareness of the issue from media reports and urged sewerage companies to do more to inform billpayers what they are doing to address the problem.
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Pennon Group, the parent company of the South West, Bournemouth and now Bristol water companies, has said it is looking to increase its renewable generation capacity “as fast as possible” in response to the current high power prices and the geopolitical environment. Discussing the company’s solar rollout as part of a trading update, chief financial officer Paul Boote said it is "actively pursuing" opportunities to increase and accelerate this deployment “wherever we can”.
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Latest in Wastewater treatment

Ofwat has confirmed it will continue to provide ring-fenced funding for further development of four strategic regional water resource projects in England following their assessment by the Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID). The regulator has issued its final decisions for the accelerated gate two of RAPID’s four gate development process for large-scale strategic schemes to provide resilient water supplies to drier parts of the country.
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The water sector has called for reforms to regulation to enable it to meet the challenges of supplying water in the face of climate change, population growth and aging infrastructure. Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: “Without urgent action there is a risk future generations will simply not have enough of this precious resource to go around.”
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The government has declared its support for further investment in sewerage systems in England and Wales in its response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s damning report on water quality in rivers. However, the committee's recommendations to address pollution from agriculture and homebuilding, which both play a significant role in preventing rivers from achieving good ecological status, were not accepted.
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Wessex Water has set out plans to reduce the risk of harm from combined sewer overflows across its region with £150 million investment to 2025 to increase capacity at treatment plants, add nature-based solutions and separate foul from surface water.
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Anglian Water has been fined £18,000 over its response to equipment failures at a pumping station near Peterborough that resulted in sewage spilling into a nearby river. The Environment Agency said the successive failure of two pumps at the station in Yaxley highlighted the company’s “reactive attitude” to pollution.
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Despite many people saying they are aware of the impact their household water habits can have on the environment, far fewer understand the specific effects and fewer still have modified their behaviour to benefit the environment. That is according to research by CCW that has coincided with the launch of Water's Worth Saving campaign coordinated by Water UK.
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Tunnelling work has been completed on the London super sewer after 25km of tunnels have been built under the capital for the Thames Tideway that will divert wastewater away from the River Thames. Work began in 2018 and the huge project is due to complete in 2025.
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Ofwat has proposed a new approach to monitoring and regulating operational resilience as it takes a longer-term view of sector-wide challenges. The regulator said this will include asking water companies to report on a series of new measures covering asset health, unplanned maintenance and equipment failures that will eventually be consolidated into an “integrated monitoring framework”.
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Welsh Water, Northumbrian, Severn Trent, Anglian and Southern are among the winners of innovation funding from Ofwat's Breakthrough Challenge, to develop and implement schemes that address common water sector challenges, including leakage and driving down harmful emissions from wastewater treatment.
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The second piece of collaborative work from Ofwat and CCW has revealed billpayer priorities that the regulator said would inform outcome delivery incentives for the 2024 price review. Consumers were most concerned about issues that impact them directly, and wider factors that will affect them sooner rather than further in the future.
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While most water customers are satisfied with the services from their supplier and sewerage companies, far fewer trust the sector to act in the best interest of communities or the environment, according to a new survey from Ofwat and CCW. The poll also suggested customers are more concerned with stopping sewage from entering water bodies, fixing leaks and preventing water shortages than keeping bills down or reducing carbon emissions.
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Last year there were more than 300,000 discharges from combined sewer overflows in England and Wales according to data from Environment Agency from event duration monitors (EDMs) that are installed at 89% of CSOs. The data breaks down the number of recorded spills to company level.
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