It wants to bring forward 31 schemes from the latter part of the decade to begin in 2023 or 2024. This will release an extra £500m spending in the 2023-25 period and over £1.6bn by 2030.
Early approval of the schemes will help the English water companies to gear up for a larger investment programme over the coming years and will help deliver benefits for customers and the environment sooner.
Investment plan in brief
- £1.1bn to improve over 250 storm overflows and reduce the annual average of spills by 10,000. This includes work to improve water quality at the bathing water site at Ilkley on the River Wharfe and significantly reduce spills into Lake Windermere;
- £400m for water resilience schemes including installation of 462,000 smart meters, and new water resource and water quality projects. In total these projects will deliver and protect 159Ml/d of water supply, helping to increase drought resilience; and
- £160m to help reduce nutrient pollution and support nutrient neutrality at 14 locations –protecting natural ecosystems while facilitating housing and economic development.
Last autumn Ofwat and Defra invited companies to propose schemes to accelerate investment in water resilience (supply and demand); storm overflows; and nutrient neutrality.
In addition to the 31 schemes, Ofwat has also identified a further 37 schemes, totalling £376m in the 2023-25 period and £1.5bn overall, that water companies could accelerate if they were included in final company environmental plans and concerns that Ofwat has raised were addressed.
David Black, chief executive of Ofwat, said: “Substantial investment is needed to address the challenges to our water system of storm overflows, river and bathing water quality and drought resilience.
“We are pleased that we’ve been able to work with companies and identify significant investments, which companies can start well before the next price control period.
“This will bring substantial benefits for customers and the environment and bring them faster. We want to see companies making more rapid progress in delivering improvements, and will hold them to account if they fall short.”
Water Minister Rebecca Pow said: “These new schemes will help accelerate the delivery of the urgent improvements we need to protect our environment.
“It includes £1.1bn of new investment to stop sewage discharges at sites across the country and will deliver a reduction of 10,000 discharges per year in places like Lake Windermere, the River Wharfe, Falmouth and Sidmouth.
“The investment set out here will also provide an important boost for regional jobs, businesses and local communities.”