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Storm overflow target to be enshrined in law

Posted: 26/04/23

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Press Release: 25th April 2023

For a link to the original GOV.UK article, click here. 


The government has announced today (Tuesday 25 April) that its target to reduce storm overflows will be enshrined in law.

The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, published in August 2022, set out stringent targets to protect people and the environment, backed up by up to £56 billion capital investment – the largest infrastructure programme in water company history.

Today, the government is announcing that it will enshrine the Plan further in law through the Environment Act 2021. It will make its costed and credible target to reduce storm overflows legally binding, in line with the Plan.

This will be backed by existing separate interim milestones for bathing waters and high priority nature sites.

The targets in the Plan provide an achievable, realistic route to tackling sewage and delivering the improvements customers expect without disproportionately impacting consumer bills. Alongside the plan, the government published a detailed economic assessment.


Today’s announcement builds on:


Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey said:

“I have been unequivocal on this issue. Water companies need to clean up their act – and they need to cover the costs.

“But the hard truth is that however much we all want to see this fixed immediately, the scale and complexity means there is no way that we can stop pollution overnight. To suggest otherwise is dishonest.

“I am using the full force of my powers to make sure that we stop the damage caused by storm overflows as quickly as possible. That includes our plans today to put our costed and credible target on a new legal footing.

The Plan for Water – published on 4 April – set out further detail on how the government is tackling every source of pollution – not just storm overflows, but also agriculture, plastics, road run-off and chemicals.