Ofwat sets out £1.6bn boost for water company investment 16 August 2023

Ofwat storm overflows (Image credit: Adobestock by By VIEWFOTO STUDIO)

Ofwat has set out a £1.6 billion boost for water company investment that will benefit storm overflows, water resilience schemes while also reducing nutrient pollution.

More specifically, the investments include:

  • £1.1bn to improve over 250 storm overflows and reduce the annual average of spills by 10,000. This includes work to improve water quality at the bathing water site at Ilkley on the River Wharfe and significantly reduce spills into Lake Windermere;
  • £400m for water resilience schemes including installation of 462,000 smart meters, and new water resource and water quality projects. In total these projects will deliver and protect 159Ml/d of water supply, helping to increase drought resilience; and
  • £160m to help reduce nutrient pollution and support nutrient neutrality at 14 locations –protecting natural ecosystems while facilitating housing and economic development.
  • In October 2022, Ofwat and Defra invited companies to propose schemes to accelerate investment in water resilience (supply and demand); storm overflows; and nutrient neutrality. Early approval of schemes will help the sector to gear up for a larger investment programme over the coming years and will help deliver benefits for customers and the environment sooner.

    These are Ofwat’s draft decisions for consultation. All projects must be started prior to April 2025 and completed by 2030. Ofwat has also identified a further 37 schemes, totalling £376m of investment in the 2023-25 period and £1.5bn overall, that companies can accelerate if they are included in final company environmental plans and address concerns that Ofwat has raised.

    David Black, chief executive at Ofwat, said: “Substantial investment is needed to address the challenges to our water system of storm overflows, river and bathing water quality and drought resilience. We are pleased that we’ve been able to work with companies and identify significant investments which companies can start well before the next price control period. This will bring substantial benefits for customers and the environment and bring them faster. We want to see companies making more rapid progress in delivering improvements, and will hold them to account if they fall short.”

    Water minister Rebecca Pow said: “These new schemes will help accelerate the delivery of the urgent improvements we need to protect our environment. It includes £1.1 billion of new investment to stop sewage discharges at sites across the country and will deliver a reduction of 10,000 discharges per year in places like Lake Windermere, the River Wharfe, Falmouth and Sidmouth.

    “The investment set out here will also provide an important boost for regional jobs, businesses and local communities.

    “It builds on the key commitments in our five-year strategy – our Environmental Improvement Plan – as well as our upcoming Plan for Water to tackle pollution, reduce water consumption and protect our waters”.

    In response, Ian Forrester, business unit manager at Alfa Laval is highlighting the role zero liquid discharge (ZLD) systems can have in improving business sustainability and competitiveness. He is calling for organisations to integrate the technology into their existing processes to increase resilience in unpredictable times.

    “This recent announcement from Ofwat is very welcome and demonstrates how all organisations should be taking immediate action to reduce wastewater and ensure maximum recoverability,” explained Forrester. “In a business landscape where water will become increasingly scarce, being able to control sources and disposal could be vital to making businesses more robust and less vulnerable to outside change and disruption.

    “As most industrial processes will use freshwater at some point, wastewater is an expected by-product. The focus on keeping waterways clean therefore means businesses must explore options around how it could be reused as clean water or through recovering salt and other chemicals for use elsewhere in the business. This is where ZLD systems, with their focus on minimising liquid waste, have a key part to play.”

    Depending on the technology used, a ZLD system concentrates wastewater via plate heat exchangers to recover saturated and precipitate solids, creating a dry solid.

    Forrester concluded: “Wastewater chlorides can have a devastatingly damaging effect on many materials, so it is crucial that process equipment specifiers specify the correct materials for their evaporator’s plate-and-frame heat exchangers,” concludes Ian. “For instance, titanium, which is used in solutions such as the AlfaFlash plate flash evaporator, is 10-to-20-times greater than alternative stainless alloys, allowing organisations to reap the benefits of ZLD systems without disruptive downtime risks.

    “Similarly, with fouling presenting a significant risk to evaporator performance, systems capable of creating high turbulence and shear stress should be prioritised. By doing so, solid accumulation on heat exchanger surfaces can be minimised, extending the run-time between cleaning cycles and reducing the risk of blockages. With the polluting effect of wastewater under increasing scrutiny, being aware of such considerations and technologies will help affected businesses not only navigate tightening sustainability regulations, but flourish.”

    Operations Engineer

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