Waste management company Southern Water is launching a task force designed to cut storm overflows this week.
Part of the company’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach to pollution and just one part of a wider programme of investment designed to improve water quality across the South Coast, Southern Water bosses hope the specially-trained team will help reduce storm overflow releases by 80 per cent come 2030.
“Southern Water’s customers have made it clear the use of storm releases are no longer acceptable,” a spokesperson said. “And the company’s open and transparent storm release data has had an important role in making people more aware of when and where these releases happen.”
The overflows are heavily regulated releases of waste water which typically take place during periods of heavy rainfall in order to protect homes and businesses from flooding. Southern Water calls them ‘an integral part of the Victorian-era sewage system.’
The task force will work in tandem with a £1.5 billion investment programme, which is on track to reduce storm release overflows by 80% by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.
The team will take a cross- sector approach to working with local stakeholders in order to find practical solutions to reducing overflows.
Those solutions will often involve working with the natural world: ponds, soak aways, wetlands and rain gardens have, alongside an increase in storage space ,‘the potential to become game changers,’ the Southern Water spokesperson said. Using natural resources like these helps prevent rainwater from entering the sewage system, reducing the need for overflows.
“There is a growing call to take action to reduce the frequency and impact of storm overflows,” said Southern Water CEO Ian McAuly. “That is a task of scale and complexity and needs multi-sector collaboration and a join up of policy to make it happen, which of course appears difficult today.
“However, just twenty years ago, the quality of our coastal waters needed to improve drastically. Today, reflecting significant investment driven by focused policy, all 83 of our regional bathing waters meet strict European Standards and a total of 78 are rated excellent or good.
“Delivering a similar transformation in the reduction of storm releases is the logical next step and we believe this can be achieved. We will play our part in leading and driving the collaboration and investment needed.