Welsh Water has secured the top rating in an annual independent assessment of how water and sewerage companies performed to protect and enhance the environment.
The only not-for-profit water company in England and Wales company secured the top 4* rating after successfully meeting or exceeding targets set for its environmental performance. The assessment, known as the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA), is conducted by Natural Resources Wales and Environment Agency.
By achieving the top ranking position, Welsh Water is recognised as being an industry-leader in ensuring that its work – providing drinking water and treating and returning wastewater from over 1.4 million households and business across most of Wales – has a limited impact on the Welsh environment. The assessment measures the different companies against a set criteria which includes measuring the number of pollution incidents and general quality of the wastewater returned to the environment.
The latest score builds on the 3* rating the company secured last year, and this has been achieved despite one of the most challenging years from a weather perspective. During 2020, the UK experienced nine named storm events and was deemed the third wettest year on record since 1910. February alone saw record rainfall as Storm Dennis hit causing flooding to thousands of homes and businesses. Despite the impact of the weather, the company’s assets managed to continue to operate and protect the environment.
The assessment also recognises the wider investment the company has undertaken into its assets which in turn has delivered wider environmental benefits. This has included phosphorus removal technology installed at additional wastewater treatment works, a reduction of releases from combined storm overflows (CSO) and also increasing the number of CSOs with monitors. This year the company also announced its intention to become a net carbon zero company by 2040.
While the company welcomes its 4* rating, it also recognises that there is still more that needs to be done to help reduce its environmental impact. This includes more investment in CSOs which release diluted wastewater into rivers during periods of heavy rain and prevent sewage from backing up into customers homes. CSOs form part of the sewerage network which Welsh Water has inherited with some parts of it dating back to the Victorian period. With tightening of environmental legislation and customer expectations changing, there is naturally increased scrutiny on how CSOs operate.
Welsh Water has already invested £8.1 million in improving the monitoring of CSOs since 2015, and now has spill monitors on over 90% of all of its CSOs. The monitors record the number and duration of spills and this data which can then be used to identify any which aren’t operating as they should which in turn helps focus investment work to improve them.
Peter Perry, Welsh Water’s Chief Executive Officer said:
“As a company committed to protecting and enhancing the environment in our care, we are delighted to have been awarded a 4* rating. This is testament to all of the colleagues that work around the clock, seven days a week making sure our assets can operate effectively, not only to deliver our essential services to customers but also to protect the environment.
“We know though that we can’t rest on our laurels here and there is still more we need to do. That is why we have ambitious investment plans in place which will deliver projects such as installing phosphorus removal at a further 21 sites and investing more than £80 million on further reducing spills from CSOs. But we also want to work more collaboratively with environmental groups and interested parties on developing sustainable initiatives to further enhance the environment”.