On 11 May 2021 it was announced that new legal duties on water companies and government will be included in the Environment Bill to reduce sewage discharged into waterways.

The additions to the Environment Bill include duties on the government to publish a plan to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022 and to report to Parliament on the progress of implementing the plan. Water companies will also have a duty to publish data on storm overflow operation on an annual basis.

Sean Robinson, specification director at Polypipe Civils & Green Urbanisation, said: “It’s good news that the issue of storm overflows and the discharge of untreated sewage in our natural waterways and environments is a key part of this legislation. Combined sewers are under greater pressure as a result of population growth, increased urban density, and the challenges we face as a direct result of climate change, such as increased rainfall and severe flooding. These problems need addressing, which is what the Environment Bill aims to achieve, but it’s paramount we find new and innovative ways of managing storm overflows so they limit any potential damage to our natural water resources.

“While we welcome the news that the government will present its plans to reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows by September 2022, we urge those involved in the consultation to look beyond what goes underground. Thanks to breakthrough stormwater attenuation and re-use technologies, we are now armed with a new generation of sustainable drainage solutions that can significantly reduce, or even eliminate, the volume of stormwater entering the combined sewerage network, reducing the risk of sewage discharge.

“These latest developments in sustainable drainage are designed to achieve greater green urbanisation – looking at how we can retain and manage stormwater to fuel and sustain green assets such as blue-green roofs, raingardens, tree pits and other shared green spaces across the entire built environment. By diverting stormwater away from sewers, this approach helps to support greater biodiversity, achieve climate change resilience, and offers multiple health and wellbeing benefits for individuals and communities. By using green urbanisation solutions which both reduce sewage discharged into waterways from storm overflows and feed new green assets, we can aim to tackle multiple problems simultaneously.

“The government, local authorities, and water and sewage companies must work together with manufacturers, architects, designers, and contractors, using the Bill as a catalyst to drive more creative, forward-thinking approaches to water management, that surpass the challenge of how we reduce sewage discharges from storm overflows and drive greater biodiversity benefits.”