Welsh Water develop new long-term drainage and wastewater management plan

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water is developing a new drainage and wastewater management plan (DWMP) which will help ensure Wales has a drainage system to meet the growing challenges of climate change, increased development and urban creep.

As the only not-for-profit utility company in England and Wales, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water has started a 10 week consultation (27 July – 5 October) with stakeholders and customers to develop a long-term plan (2025 – 2050) for a drainage and wastewater system that meets the needs of its customers and communities and helps to protect the environment for generations to come.

The pressures of climate change, urban creep (the loss of permeable land around existing buildings) and new development are already placing huge pressures on existing drainage systems. The company’s first DWMP aims to provide a long-term view of how drainage should be managed in the company’s operating area, working to a standard and at a pace, that is both affordable and acceptable to customers. Such a plan will require significant collaboration which is why the company is calling on stakeholders, experts and those who rely on the drainage systems affected, to share their views.

Not all of the drainage system is the responsibility of Welsh Water. Land drains, streams, rivers, highway drainage and drains serving just one property may be owned or managed by local authorities, Natural Resources Wales, the Environment Agency or by private land and property owners.

The DWMP aims to consider this issue holistically rather than just consider Welsh Water’s assets alone.

Many third-party drainage systems drain into Welsh Water sewers or can overflow into them during heavy rainfall or flooding. The combined sewerage system, which takes effluent, storm water and surface water drainage, has developed ‘organically’ over the last 150 years or so mainly to prevent flooding, and now urgently requires review if Welsh Water are to further reduce the impacts of the system on customers and the environment.

This is the first time that a DWMP has been developed in this collaborative way and a second, statutory planning cycle will begin in 2023.

This new approach to planning will assist the industry to make a step-change in providing long-term sewerage and drainage planning and reflects a similar process undertaken on the water side of the business to ensure our water resources are fit for the future. The DWMP will set out Welsh Water’s view of the priorities, taking into account the views of its customers as well as a wide range of other stakeholders.

Steve Wilson, Managing Director of Wastewater Services said: “Designing and investing in a drainage and wastewater system fit for the future is a challenge of significant scale and cannot be achieved by one single organisation, which is why we’re engaging with our customers and stakeholders. We all have a role to play in addressing the complex challenges that face us – Government, our regulators, councils, landowners, businesses, customers and communities to jointly find the solutions, alternative ways of working and legislative changes that will be necessary.

“It is vital that we understand the views of those who use our services, particularly with regards to the pace at which these improvements are made and the order in which to make them, as the costs for this will impact customer bills.

“We are also keen to listen to the views of other key stakeholders, particularly those who will join with us and help guide us to manage the legacy of our combined sewers and a reduction in the reliance on combined storm overflows (CSOs) as a means of limiting localised sewer flooding.”

Once Welsh Water has completed the consultation phase with customers and stakeholders in September 2022, the final DWMP will be published in March 2023.

The consultation material can be found here.

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