The Environment Bill 2019-21 is currently being considered by a Public Bill Committee who are scheduled to report by the end of September. It outlines the provision for targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment; for statements and reports about environmental protection; for the Office for Environmental Protection; on waste and resource efficiency; on air quality; for the recall of products that fail to meet environmental standards; about water; on nature and biodiversity; for conservation covenants; on the regulation of chemicals; and for connected purposes.

Three key areas have been brought to the attention of the water industry including:

  • The management of sewage overflows into the water network
  • Chalk streams and the impact of over abstraction
  • A resilient water supply

Managing sewage overflows

An ageing sewer network coupled with higher volumes from storms and extreme weather incidents has increased the frequency of overflows of wastewater into the water system. The Storm Overflow Assessment Framework (SOAF) has been created to help identify and prioritise the upgrading of the network.

SOAF comprises of a five-stage process and APEM are supporting water companies through this. The initial Stages 1 & 2 focus on Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) and determining the level of environmental and aesthetic impact using RICT (The River Invertebrate Classification Tool), the outputs of these then helps inform the further stages.

Minister Pow has announced a new Joint Storm Overflows Task Force that will outline proposals to reduce frequency and amount of sewage discharge allowed into watercourses because of storm overflows, and The Environment Bill will allow government to set legally binding wastewater targets.

 

The decline of chalk streams

England has 85% of the world’s chalk streams[1] and these important freshwater ecosystems are under continual threat from many risks including agricultural pollution, the introduction of non-native species and the growth of development seen in areas such the south of England. One of the most serious risks is changes in rainfall patterns and the corresponding periods of low river flow.

Water companies have the unenviable task of finding the right balance between being able to supply clean drinking water whilst protecting the environment. APEM are at the forefront of driving solutions to support water companies with effective ways to reduce or mitigate the impacts of water abstraction and the potential effects of low flows on wildlife in rivers and streams.

Improving water resilience

Minister Pow reiterated the government’s expectation for leakage rates to be halved by 2050, ensuring a more reliable water supply for all. Leakage can be difficult to spot early on, especially in rural or remote areas that are often not easily accessible. Early detection and remedial action saves water and puts less of a strain on our water supply and the need to abstract.

APEM’s innovative digital aerial surveys detect signs of leakage in underground pipes efficiently with over 100km of pipe being able to be surveyed in a single day. The ultra-high resolution images can map in the visible colour, near-infrared and thermal parts of the spectrum.

How APEM can support

APEM have been working with the water industry for over 30 years and are on many water company frameworks. Not only can we support with the areas highlighted by Minister Pow, we are also experts in many other areas of water quality and environmental management.

A quick visit to our water industry webpage will give you a good overview of all of the ways in which we can assist you.

Further reading

[1] https://www.theriverstrust.org/