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Welsh Water proud to be joining forces to future-proof the UK's sewers


Welsh Water and partners are proud to launch the first stage of a ground-breaking programme which aims to secure a sewerage network that efficient, affordable and supports the environment and the economy in the decades to come.

The ground-breaking 21st Century Drainage Programme, chaired by Welsh Water’s Director of Environment Tony Harrington, brings together more than 40 organisations – from government, regulators, the water industry, academics, local authorities, environmental charities and others to tackle the challenges of protecting health, supporting communities, securing the environment now and for the future.

Set against a backdrop of a changing climate, growth in population and other changes to our society, the Programme is building a scientifically robust programme of research to help meet these challenges.

Director of Environment, Tony Harrington said: “Welsh Water is proud to be playing its part in this innovative Programme, and it’s a privilege to be chairing the partners. Without adequate drainage, communities and businesses cannot grow, and we cannot properly support our environment. Today’s report aims to set out the successes and challenges of the past and the scale of ambition for the future. This includes how we should design our sewers in the future and tackle issues such as long-term sewer deterioration and potential ownership models for all drainage assets.

“We operate an extensive network of pipes and sites, with over 800 wastewater treatment works and 36,000 km of sewers – enough to stretch to Australia and back if laid end-to-end – and ensuring the long term sustainability of our network is a huge challenge. We also face the daily problems of sewer blockages caused by the wrong things being flushed down the toilet or poured down the kitchen sink. These cost our business around £7 million every year and can flood homes and pollute local streams.

“Welsh Water’s unique model with no shareholders means we’ve already been able to make innovative steps to future proofing our network, including RainScape project - which reduces the risk of local sewer flooding by removing surface water from our sewers – and implementing our largest ever science and innovation programme that will play a part in helping us all secure a healthy and vibrant environment for years to come. We’re also working with customers and communities through our award-winning behavioural change campaign “Let’s Stop the Block” to challenge customers to think before they flush.

“Today also sees the launch of our first Environment which highlights the progress we have made so far, and our performance over the past 12 months, but also acknowledge where we need to improve. We want to help customers understand what we are doing now and how we can work together to play our part in achieving a truly sustainable environment that we are proud to hand on to future generations.

“Few of us think about what happens after we flush the loo or pull the plug in the sink or bath, and yet the sewerage system is essential to the nation’s physical and economic health. Billions of pounds have been invested in ensuring that this water is taken away, cleaned and returned to the environment to support our unique wildlife – although there is still much to do.

“Bringing such a wide group of organisations and people together to deal with these complex issues is a first. The group is known as the 21st Century Drainage Programme, a name which reflects the long term nature of what we are trying to achieve”.

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For further information, please contact Welsh Water’s Press Office on 01443 452452