South West Water told officials that the target was “demanding” and would cause “disproportionate costs”….[looks like to the consumer – Owl]
…..South West Water called for a phosphorus equivalent of the EU’s carbon trading scheme, which could in theory allow water companies to “buy” reductions in phosphorus releases by farmers and other sectors instead of upgrading sewage works.
[Owl emphasis on this fudge and adds this quote from SWW: “We are passionate about our water and provide reliable, efficient and high quality drinking water and waste water services throughout Cornwall and Devon.“]
Adam Vaughan http://www.thetimes.co.uk
Water companies argued that a government target to clean up a key source of river pollution would drive up water bills and push many households into “water poverty”.
Effluent released from sewage treatment works is the biggest source of phosphorus in England’s rivers. Excessive levels of the nutrient can lead to algal blooms that reduce oxygen levels and choke fish and plants.
However, when the government recently consulted on its new Environment Act target of cutting phosphorus releases from sewage plants by 80 per cent by 2037, compared with 2020, it received a strong resistance.
South West Water told officials that the target was “demanding” and would cause “disproportionate costs”.
The company, whose number of sewage spills has drawn fire from Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary, warned of “a significant increase in the number of households in water poverty and struggling to pay their bills”.
Thames Water said the drive to reduce phosphorus was “likely to materially increase customer bills”.
The government’s Plan for Water last week said there was four fifths less phosphorus in rivers than in 1990, but it wanted to go further. Coffey’s department said it had already required companies to invest £2.5 billion for further reductions by 2025.
While large sewage works have been upgraded to strip out a certain amount of phosphorus, many smaller facilities do not remove any of the pollutant.
The Times Clean it Up campaign has been calling for greater and faster investment by water companies to tackle phosphorus pollution, as well as greater incentives for farmers to curb their releases of the pollutant.
United Utilities, recently revealed as the worst sewage spiller in England, raised concerns that the phosphorus target would have a “sizable impact of the proposed targets on the affordability of water bills”.
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Despite a water industry chief telling companies not to blame other sectors for river pollution, United Utilities complained that it was unfair agriculture had to cut phosphorus pollution by only 40 per cent. It said a “greater emphasis is needed on agricultural pollution” to get cleaner rivers.
South West Water called for a phosphorus equivalent of the EU’s carbon trading scheme, which could in theory allow water companies to “buy” reductions in phosphorus releases by farmers and other sectors instead of upgrading sewage works.
Anglian Water also bemoaned the focus on upgrading sewage works, which it warned could “incentivise significant investment” into “environmentally irrelevant point sources [places where pollution is released]”.
The lobbying drive was uncovered by the website OpenDemocracy, which obtained the company responses to a government consultation using freedom of information rules. The push has echoes of a similar sally by water firms last year, when they raised the spectre of steep water bill increases in response to new rules on reducing sewage spills from storm overflows. Figures released this month show there were more than 300,000 such spills last year.
The average annual household water bill in England and Wales is rising 7.5 per cent to £448 from this financial year. Analysts at Barclays expect that to increase to £700 in today’s money by 2050 to pay for investments in cleaning up sewage pollution and building infrastructure.
Despite the cost warnings from firms, the government stuck to its phosphorus target. Companies are expected to be forced by regulators to make improvements to their sewage works, such as using iron salts or reed banks to strip out more phosphorus.
More than 500 works are expected to be upgraded. “We have full confidence in our ambitious Environment Act targets,” a spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.
Anglian Water said: “Every catchment and river will have different amounts of phosphorus and it might not be necessary to reduce this by 80 per cent to achieve the outcome for the environment.”
Thames Water said: “Taking action to improve the health of rivers is a key focus for us and we made clear in our response to the government’s consultation that we support the reduction of phosphorus in waterways.”
United Utilities and South West Water were contacted for comment.