Agenda item

Environment Agency and SW Water (Quality of River and Beach water)




The Chair welcomed Clarissa Newell, Environment Agency and Alan Burrows, SW Water to the meeting.  The Environment Agency (EA) and SW Water (SWW) provided presentations.


In discussion, particular reference was made to:

     The EA regularly monitor the bathing waters, and this was undertaken weekly.

     Dogs were banned from beaches during the summer season and they undertake additional monitoring to determine if E.coli was present. 

     They take samples of bathing water for analysis and always from the same place to build up a history of data.  They were also undertaking pilot work outside of the bathing season for testing.

     SWW were recreating new resources for reservoirs but were also encouraging people to reduce their demand.  In 2022 demand for water was excessive.

     SWW were investigating leakages and working across the wider southwest to improve services and address leakages.

     The service level agreement in place would determine how quickly a leak would be responded to, it depended on the leak and the number of properties affected.  The SWW website shows the number of leaks in the area.

     Water bills were increasing and it was estimated that household bills would increase by 7.5%.

     SWW recognised the cost of living and support was provided to customers, also advice provided on the website. 

     Extensive work and engagement with the farming community regarding pesticides and run-off and reducing risks.

     Pennon Group covers different elements and not just SWW and stakeholders expect a return on their investments.

     The water industry was privatised in 1989 and since then standards had considerably improved, if nationalised they would have to compete with statutory services such as the NHS.

     The EA monitor climate emergency such as salmon moving up rivers and flood modelling for following years and have long term plans in place to safeguard the environment.

     They cannot remove the risk of flooding and local authorities ensure residents were prepared for flooding, reviewing communities at risk and how to adapt.

     SW Water PR24 Plan outlines their clear commitment to reaching net zero by 2030 such as electrifying their fleet, looking at renewable energy and the implications of climate change. 

     The recent fines incurred by SWW were paid direct to central Government and the local area would not benefit from that money.

     They were increasing the capacity for sewage treatment but were having to remove items from sewage treatments that shouldn’t be there.  They were undertaking a large piece of work looking at overflow systems and working with communities when issues were raised.

     OFWAT highlighted lack of investment and it was reported within a five-year period were spending above and maintaining networks, however, need to spend £3bn to meet the new Government targets and projecting they could achieve this.

     Water saving devices were available for domestic households to help preserve water supplies.    

     The inspectorate requires SWW to regularly test the quality of drinking water.  Drinking water in the SW was regarded as the best in the industry.

     The South Milton outlet, leakages onto the beach and signage to warn people using the beach.  SWW reported that they met with residents last week and felt that clarity was provided at that meeting.   It was not the responsibility of SWW to provide signage, however they were happy to provide wording for the signage.  Officers reported that SHDC could cover the signage subject to landowners’ permission.


Questions were raised on the percentage loss through leakage and what SWW insurance for domestic households covered and responses would be provided by SWW outside of the meeting. There were also a number of questions submitted by the public for responses from the EA and SWW.


The Chair thanked the Environment Agency and South West Water for their attendance at the meeting.


            It was then:




The Overview and Scrutiny Committee note the presentations from the Environment Agency and SW Water and request that a response is provided for the additional questions provided.