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Our innovative project to improve bathing water quality is under way.
We are working with local authorities, the Environment Agency and other organisations over the next five years to find and fix sources of pollution preventing seven bathing waters in our region from achieving ‘excellent’ standard - this is one measure required for bathing waters to gain ‘Blue Flag’ status.
This added benefit is over and above our statutory duties, which water companies are normally only funded to meet. It stemmed from consultation with our customers who told us they wanted us to do more to lead improvements in coastal water quality.
Over recent years, we have invested millions of pounds to reduce the impact of our wastewater network on bathing water quality. However, bathing water is also affected by a range of other sources of pollution such as contaminated rainwater running off roads and agricultural land, wastewater from privately-owned treatment works, boats and animals on the beach such as dogs and seabirds.
We are now working to understand the causes of pollution at each of the 21 bathing waters shortlisted to identify which of them, and the communities they serve, would benefit the most from intervention.
Investigations will be carried out over the coming year. These will enable us to prioritise the seven bathing waters that are progressed to intervention based on the cost, value, time and deliverability of the required intervention.
Our customers have backed the plans and told us they were willing to pay extra through their water bills to fund the improvements. We have earmarked £31.5 million for the programme – approximately £2 per customer over the five years of 2015-20.
This project is part of our long-term plan to improve bathing water quality in our region. As part of this, we have committed to work with other agencies, local communities and landowners to bring all coastal waters at bathing beaches in the region up to the standard required to achieve Blue Flag status by 2040 – provided there is continued support from our customers and regulator to do so.