Challenging Performance of Combined Sewer Overflows

Welsh Water combined sewer overflow at Bryncoch, Neath. © Alan Hughes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Afonydd Cymru have been challenging the performance of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) in Wales.  Our position statement for CSOs can be found here and after a number of meetings with Welsh Water and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) we also wrote to NRW requesting short-term measures for enforcement. Due to our continuous voice on this matter, we have now been asked to represent our rivers in a number of different fora.

Afonydd Cymru have been asked to sit on the Customer Challenge Group (CCG) for Welsh Water, an independent customer focused stakeholder group that provides scrutiny and challenge, ensuring that the needs of current and future customers and communities are at the heart of how Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water operates. As part of this role, we will be a member of the CCG Sub-Group for CSOs, which will be operational from 2022.  On 8 December, we also attended a Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water CSO Strategy Sprint, a workshop to explore and challenge actions which the water company could take to improve its operations on CSOs.

Afonydd Cymru challenged NRW and Welsh Water to ensure maintenance of CSOs (a significant contributor to current failure), to accelerate the current Sewer Overflow Assessment (SOAF) to ascertain water quality impact from CSO and to ensure that future investment programmes include for the needs of CSO improvements.  We await publication of the final outcomes of the workshop.  On 16 December, Afonydd Cymru were also asked to join the Welsh Government Better Water Quality Taskforce, a group to deliver improvements to river water quality including a programme of delivery for CSOs.  Both Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water and Hafren Dyfrdwy are part of this Group, thus covering rivers across Wales.  Afonydd Cymru will review the objectives of this group and will challenge the workstreams of the Group as required to meet the needs of our rivers.

We have also continued to challenge NRW to deliver on Alternative Mitigation requirements through a series of meetings and a letter here. This has been a lengthy and time-consuming process and although we are moving forward, there is still much to be done.  Alternative Mitigation was agreed as part of the Salmon Action Plan. For alternative measures to re-stocking and the operation of hatcheries.  We remain concerned that NRW is not delivering on all of its actions and we will continue to press for a long-term, in-perpuity solution.

In 2021, we finally secured agreement for April 2021 payments to be made to the relevant regional river trusts.  We continue to challenge Welsh Water and NRW to resolve mitigation activities on the Cleddau.  We also require NRW to demonstrate evidence and scientific evaluation for changes to measures on the Tywi.  These measures are the minimum to be achieved and we will continue to argue for solutions to be secured for these rivers.

Posted: January 12, 2022