Welsh Water publishes Manifesto for Rivers in Wales and plans record environmental investment

18 May 2023

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has published a ‘manifesto’ outlining its plans for investment to improve river water quality in its operating area, acknowledging increasing public concern relating to the health of rivers and apologising for any harm caused by its operations, with the company promising not to shy away from the challenges.

Its plans will result in the company investing £840m in the five years to 2025 (AMP7) and a further £1.4bn between 2025 and 2030 (AMP8) to protect the environment and continue to ensure that all revenues raised by the company are retained for further investment. Our ownership model has been used in AMP7 to fund an additional £144m of environmental improvements.

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. We will do everything we can as fast as we can, tackling first where we can make the biggest difference. We will not shy away from this issue.”

The Manifesto for Rivers in Wales responds directly to the First Minister’s calls at last year’s Phosphate Summit for every sector to own their contribution to the pressures facing Welsh rivers, with additional investment committed specifically to reduce phosphorous in the five failing Special Area of Conservation (SAC) rivers – the Wye, Usk, Teifi, Cleddau and Dee rivers.

Welsh Water is committing to the following actions:

  • Materially accelerating progress on improving river water quality by:
    • investing £133m to eliminate 90% of the harm caused by phosphorous from wastewater treatment works outflows in SAC catchments by 2030 and 100% by 2032
    • tackling first the CSOs that are having the biggest environmental impact, moving 100% to the ‘very low or no harm’ category by 2040 – this programme we estimate will cost £4bn
    • developing catchment permitting and nature-based solution approaches (e.g. our industry-leading RainScape in Llanelli) to achieve what is needed at smaller, more rural sites where the conventional, carbon intensive, WwTW phosphorus removal process is likely to be sub-optimal
  • Further developing the open access that we provide to monitoring data by:
    • providing by January 2024 near real-time (within one hour) warnings of CSO’s operating discharges that impact bathing waters and high amenity sites where people swim, with all remaining CSOs available by 2025 (note: over 99.5% of all our CSOs are already monitored)
    • making all “Source Apportionment” research publicly available detailing all the factors that contribute to Special Area of Conservation (SAC) rivers failing to reach good ecological status
    • working with relevant partner organisations [including citizen scientists] in Wales to create an open source River Water Data Hub that brings together all relevant information relating to river water quality in one place for the ease of customers and stakeholders
  • Embracing a partnership approach encompassing all relevant stakeholders in our operating area by:
    • committing to the outputs and recommendations of the Welsh Government led Wales Better River Quality Taskforce which brings regulators, government and water companies to improve river water quality
    • working with our established Independent Environment Advisory Panel to align our biodiversity, ecological and environmental improvement plans with independent advice and good practice
    • continuing to support and work with the Nutrient Management Boards on SAC rivers
    • replicating the collaborative working model currently in place with the Wye & Usk Foundation and Hereford Council to support additional phosphorus removal using natural treatment such as low carbon wetland systems
    • working with Natural Resources Wales and Welsh Government to support an Inland Bathing Waters Pilot
  • Ensuring the necessary investment remains affordable for customers by:
    • continuing to provide sector-leading support for customers who are struggling to pay their water bills
    • continuing to use funding that in other companies would be available for shareholders, to pay for social tariffs (2020-2025: £60m paid by the company as return-of-value) as well as environmental protection (2020-2025: £144m)

The company has already confirmed that both Welsh Water Executive Directors – Peter Perry (Chief Executive) and Mike Davis (Chief Finance Officer) - have said they will not accept any “variable pay” (bonus) for the year 2022/23.