Save our Harbours Summit delivers progress towards Healthy Harbours by 2030

  • New web mapper and region’s first full-scale natural capital assessment will bring the environment front and centre in future investment decisions
  • Southern Water’s £5 million Environmental Improvement Fund is accelerating solutions to protect local ecology and the natural environment of the harbours and wider region
  • We are improving habitat management through working with landowners and farmers

Worthing, 25 February 2022 – This week, leaders from local and national organisations came together at our third Save Our Harbours Summit to drive solutions that protect the natural habitats and local ecology of Pagham, Chichester and Langstone Harbours. Water quality and protected habitats within the harbours have degraded over time and we are committed to playing a leading role in restoring them to full health by 2030.

We are working in an innovative and collaborative way to accelerate our plan of action to ensure healthy harbours. This  focuses on delivering solutions today, with several key developments being progressed since our previous summit in October 2021. Examples include working with the agricultural community to understand nutrient leaching from farmland and develop run-off prevention schemes. We are also collaborating with environmental charities and organisations to deliver nature-based solutions that reduce surface water runoff to help reduce pollution incidents.

These summits address the most pressing environmental challenges facing the harbours as well as developing longer-term action plans in partnership with local businesses and national environmental groups. To help these plans, we have now completed an extremely detailed web mapper which allows all partners to better incorporate the local environment into future planning decisions by collating data on everything from fishing vessel routes to information on the smallest ecological habitats in the area.

The summit has also delivered the first full-scale natural capital assessment of the harbours and their catchment areas. This will provide all partners with invaluable information to make fundamental changes in the way our region approaches investment decisions and their impact on the health of our precious harbours.  It will also ensure that Southern Water’s £5 million Environmental Improvement Fund will be spent on the key areas that will make the most difference to the natural ecosystem.  

Professor Sir Dieter Helm CBE, the Summit's Independent Chairman, said:

“I am buoyed by the progress made since our last session and the spirit of collaboration with which all the summit partners have entered into this critical work. The degradation of the harbours over time is a societal issue – it has not been caused by any one issue or party – and it can only be reversed by working together with a shared vision. Our 2030 Vision for harbour recovery will embed targets for environmental improvements and drive integrated investment planning. We have a long way to go but the publication of the first natural capital assessment ever conducted in the harbours gives us a strong base to build from as we restore the harbours of the south coast.”

Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s CEO, said: Ian McAulay, Southern Water’s CEO, said:

“It is clear that a collaborative and cross-sector approach is key to improving the natural environment of our region for our customers and local residents, now and long into the future. I’d like to thank the partners of this summit and am delighted that we are seeing real progress in the areas that will make a true difference to Pagham, Chichester and Langstone harbours.

“I am confident that the continued success at these Summits will provide a blueprint for further collaboration in our region. Indeed the work we are doing has been recognised as being of national importance. We are showing what can be achieved if a multi-industry approach is taken to tackling the most difficult and complex challenges facing our local ecology and wildlife.” 

Notes to editors

Attending organisations

Arun and Rother Rivers Trust

Chichester Harbour Conservancy

Coastal Partners

Environment Agency Area Director Solent and South Downs

Natural England

Langstone Harbour Board


Sussex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (IFCA)

Seaward Properties

Natural Capital Research

Professor Sir Dieter Helm is Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford. He was Independent Chair of the Natural Capital Committee, providing advice to the government on the sustainable use of natural capital, until the end of the second term of the Committee in November 2020.  In the New Year 2021 Honours List, Dieter was awarded a knighthood for services to the environment, energy and utilities policy.

  1. Pollution targets

Southern Water is working towards an 80 per cent reduction on two industry leading pollution targets. It aims to cut all pollution incidents by 80 per cent by 2025 from its pipeline network and treatment works. This includes sewer flooding caused by blockages and pollution from burst pipes. It is also committed to cutting storm overflows by 80 per cent by 2030.

  1. Storm overflow task force

Much of Britain’s water system is comprised of a single pipe “combined sewer” network which collects and conveys both foul and surface water.  This means that when there is heavy rainfall the increase in the volumes of water in the network can overwhelm the capacity of the pipeline and treatment plants. When this happens water companies are legally allowed to release water via overflows, known as Combined Sewer Overflows, into the sea or rivers in order to protect homes from flooding. Around 95 per cent of this water is surface or rainwater, but around 5 per cent can be a combination of treated or untreated sewage.

Southern Water believes this practice is no longer acceptable and needs to be addressed. It has therefore set up a Task Force with the aim of reducing the number of storm overflow discharges by 80 per cent by 2030. It believes that with climate change and population growth only likely to increase pressure on the sewage system, innovative solutions and approaches are needed to deliver to reduce overflows and create a more resilient system.

As a first step the force has launched pathfinder projects across the South East ranging from Deal, Margate, to Swalecliffe and Sandown. These will test a range of nature-based solutions such as ponds, wetlands and rain gardens to reduce the amount of surface water that enters the sewers during a storm. Nature based solutions also reduce carbon emissions as water treatment is a carbon intensive activity and is responsible for 72 per cent of Southern Water’s energy consumption.

  1. Investment plans

Between 2020-25 Southern Water is investing over £2 billion across the region driving innovation and partnerships through working with partners in the community. £1.5 billion of this is for investment in improving wastewater services, which is being used to upgrade Southern Water’s ability to process greater volumes of sewage and the capacity to store more storm water. This is in addition to the nature-based approach to reduce storm overflows. A further £700 million is being invested in continuing to deliver reliable supplies of clean drinking water. This includes routine maintenance and improvement work as well as fixing leaks. This includes an additional £230 million of investment, over and above the allowance set by the industry regulator Ofwat.