Community and two rivers set to benefit from £13m Welsh Water green project

8 July 2024

An innovative £13m green investment scheme is set to become the first of its kind in the UK by providing a nature-based community facility which at the same time will be helping improve water quality in two Welsh rivers.

The project by Welsh Water, will create a 1.8-hectare wetland at Pont-y-Felin Lane, New Inn near Pontypool, for the local community that will also serve as a green filtering system for storm water that can overflow from the nearby storm overflow during heavy rain. This stormwater will pass through the wetland before it is released into the Afon Lwyd. This will help improve the quality of the river and also the main water body it flows into, the River Usk.

Work, which has been a number of years in planning, is underway to create the reed beds, wetlands, footpaths, environmental enhancements and educational areas to benefit the local biodiversity and provide an area for the community to enjoy.

Storm overflows are an essential part of the wastewater system and act as a relief valve to help homes and communities from flooding during periods of heavy rain. While completely removing all storm overflows from the network is unaffordable, what Welsh Water is committed to tackling those which have the greatest ecological impact first. The green solution that will be installed at New Inn will mean that spills from the system will be filtered which will remove many of the substance which can cause ecological harm, such as phosphates.

Welsh Water's Managing Director of Wastewater, Steve Wilson, said: “We’re delighted to be creating this innovative site that will mitigate the effects of wastewater from a storm overflow. Wetlands work by taking partially treated wastewater and passing it through a series of interconnected ponds. All the ponds are planted with native aquatic species such as iris, rush, marsh marigold and watercress. The wetlands naturally remove substances such as phosphate which are well known to have an impact on water quality in rivers.

“This project has been years in the planning, and is testament to our commitment to always work to do the right thing for our customers and the environment.

“In line with NRW and Welsh Government policy, we are targeting investment on the storm overflows causing environmental harm first rather than those which spill the most.”

“Our investment to date in our wastewater system has delivered real improvements and helped ensure Wales has over a quarter UKs Blue Flag beaches while only having 15% of the coastline and that 44% of our rivers and waterbodies meet good ecological status compared to 14% in England.

“However, we are committed to playing our part in doing what we can to reduce our impact on our rivers and working with others to drive the improvements to river water quality that we all want to see.” Wales Office Minister Fay Jones, who recently visited the site, said: “The quality of water in our rivers is a vitally important issue and many people across Wales want to see action taken to protect our waterways from pollution.

“So it was fantastic to see the investment being made by Dwr Cymru at its facility in Pontypool which, as well as helping improve water quality in nearby rivers, will create a natural facility for the local community to enjoy.”

During the planning stages, Welsh Water worked closely with the community and stakeholders to keep them fully informed of the plans as they progressed.

Work on the project is set to be complete by March 2025.

Storm Overflows– like the one in New Inn – play a vital role in preventing homes being flooded following rain and storms because most of the waste network is a combined system that collects surface as well as wastewater. The operation of overflows – which mainly release surface water that enters the sewers due to rainfall – is highly regulated.