Investment plans for cleaner Northwest rivers revealed

A £230m programme of environmental investment is under way across the Northwest to improve 184km of the region’s rivers by 2025.

United Utilities has announced the locations where it will be investing in the region’s wastewater systems to make them more resilient to heavy rainfall.

In total, the investment programme will reduce sewer spills into the environment by more than 10 million tonnes a year – the equivalent of 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

United Utilities will be upgrading treatment plants and sewer systems at the following locations:

  • Bolton:  United Utilities is planning to build additional storage capacity at Bolton wastewater treatment works and also at seven different locations within the sewer network across the Bolton area. This will reduce the need for storm spills and improve 21km of the River Croal
  • Bury: Bury wastewater treatment works will be upgraded so that it can treat more sewage during heavy rainfall. The nearby sewer network will also be improved with additional storage capacity. Together with the investment at Bolton treatment works this will improve 40km of the River Irwell
  • Rochdale: Castleton wastewater treatment works will be upgraded so that it can treat more sewage during heavy rainfall, improving 5km of Trub Brook
  • Worsley: Worsley wastewater treatment works will be upgraded with more storage capacity so that additional sewage flows can be treated during heavy rainfall. This will improve 7km of Astley Brook.
  • Mossley:  Mossley wastewater treatment works will be upgraded so that it can treat more sewage during heavy rainfall. The nearby sewer network will also be upsized with additional storage capacity, improving 20km of the River Tame.
  • Wigan: The sewer network will be upgraded with additional storage to reduce storm spills. This will improve 1km of Atherton Brook
  • Burnley and Hyndburn:  Burnley and Hyndburn wastewater treatment plants will be upgraded so that they can treat greater volumes during heavy rainfall, and the sewer network at Pendle and Burnley will be upgraded to provide greater storage capacity. This will improve 23km of Pendle Water and the River Calder
  • Chorley:  Horwich wastewater treatment works will be upgraded so that it can treat more sewage during heavy rainfall. The nearby sewer network will also be improved with additional storage capacity. Together this will improve 38km of the River Douglas. United Utilities is looking at the feasibility of creating a vertical reed bed at one of the storm overflows on the sewer network in Chorley. This will improve 5km of Syd Brook
  • Rossendale: Rossendale wastewater treatment works will be upgraded to provide greater storm water storage capacity, improving 7km of the River Irwell
  • Blackburn: Work has already been completed at Darwen and Blackburn wastewater treatment plants to increase the storage capacity. Along with other process improvements, this is already improving 13km of the River Darwen
  • Runcorn: Runcorn wastewater treatment works will be upgraded to provide greater storm water storage capacity, improving the River Mersey
  • Newbiggin: Newbiggin wastewater treatment works will be upgraded to increase the volume of wastewater it can treat. This will improve the quality of water in Morecambe Bay
  • Carlisle: Carlisle wastewater treatment works will be upgraded to increase the flow into the works, helping treat more sewage in storm conditions. This will improve the River Eden
  • Gosforth near Eskdale: The wastewater treatment plant at Gosforth has been upgraded to increase the amount of storm water that can be stored before treatment. This will improve the River Bleng.
  • Windermere: United Utilities is part of the Love Windermere partnership which aims to tackle the challenges facing the lake, including pollution from nutrients, climate change and seasonal tourist numbers. A group of organisations including the research, water, farming, NGO, charity and regulatory sectors are working together on a science-based plan to improve water quality in the lake.

The investment was announced on the same day that United Utilities retained the top 4-star rating for its environmental performance in 2021.

Jo Harrison, Director of Environment Planning and Innovation at United Utilities, said: “At United Utilities, our purpose is very clear – we don’t just supply water, we also want to make the Northwest greener, healthier and stronger. We work very hard to maintain a high level of environmental performance and we’re pleased that for the second year running we have been awarded the top 4-star rating by the Environment Agency.

“We know there is always more to do and playing our part to improve the health of the region’s rivers is very important to our customers. This is already well underway and, by 2025, we will have invested £230m improving 184km of waterways and we will have developed our plans to progressively reduce the impact of storm overflows in the coming years.”

The river improvement programme is just part of United Utilities investment commitments across the Northwest between 2020 and 2025. This will inject £10.5 billion into the regional economy and support 1 in every 100 jobs across the Northwest.

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