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Welsh Waters in call for improvement following increase in pollution incidents

NATURAL RESOURCES WALES (NRW) is calling for Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to “step up and take action” after its annual environmental performance reports for water companies highlighted an increase in pollution incidents.

NRW also found a decrease in compliance with environmental permits for sewage discharges.

The deterioration in performance by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has led to the company being downgraded from four-star – industry leading – company status last year to three-star (good company) under 2021 Environmental Performance Assessment metrics (EPA).

The report reveals that 83 sewage-related pollution incidents were caused by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water assets last year, compared to 77 the previous year.

Two of these pollution incidents were categorised as having a serious (High) environmental impact.

There was also one serious (High) incident from a water supply asset.

It also shows that numeric compliance against permitted discharges dropped from 99.7% to 98.3% and self-reporting of incidents dropped from 80% to 76%.

Expectations for improvements are outlined in the reports, including targets to reduce the number of pollution incidents year on year, aiming towards zero.

The report said the although the total sewage pollution incidents metric remained green, in 2021 “there has been an increase of six incidents -from 77 in 2020 to 83 in 2021. ”

“It is disappointing Dŵr Cymru have not sustained their improvement in this metric from last year”

The NRW performance report states: “The overall performance for water supply incidents is unacceptable.”

“We are calling for urgent action from Dŵr Cymru after 2021 saw the sixth consecutive year where the number of incidents from water supply assets increased.”

“We welcome the inclusion of serious incidents from water supply assets in the serious pollution incidents EPA metric from 2021 to bring more focus on this area of performance.”

Ceri Davies, NRW’s Executive Director for Evidence, Policy and Permitting said:

“Water companies have a responsibility to the environment, as well as their customers, and they must take these incidents – and the impact they have on our water quality – seriously.”

“Over many years water companies in Wales have invested significantly and improved their environmental performance so we are challenging their recent performance and asking them to set the standard for the water sector by attaining industry leading status, whilst also showing leadership in responding to the biodiversity and climate crises.”

“The decline in environmental performance is disappointing and we expect them to respond positively with renewed effort, and to drive forward improvements.”

“Earlier this week, we published our storm overflow roadmap, in collaboration with the water sector and Welsh Government, which outlines an action plan of commitments from all those involved to reduce the impact of storm overflows on our rivers in Wales.”

“This sits amongst a number of initiatives across other sectors including rural land use and industry, to tackle the numerous threats facing our rivers.”

“Improving water quality for the long term requires a collective effort from all involved, working together to identify catchment-scale solutions to contribute to healthy rivers.”

Welsh Water has not commented as yet on the report.