Knaresborough viaduct
Knaresborough viaduct

Work begins on Yorkshire Water’s £180m storm overflow reduction plan

Yorkshire Water is investing £180m in reducing discharges from storm overflows in the next two years.

The plan is targeting overflows that discharge the most often or for the most time as the utility looks to reduce its impact on water quality in the region’s rivers. Over 190 overflows have been earmarked for investment as part of the plan and work on the first batch of improvements is already underway.

Work will be carried out on overflows which discharge into all the major rivers throughout the entire region.

The investment, partly funded by shareholders, is in addition to the £147m being spent as part of the utility’s current five-year business plan and the work being planned between 2025 and 2030, which will see the company’s largest environmental investment since privatisation.

Nicola Shaw, CEO of Yorkshire Water, said:

We did not act quickly enough to tackle the issue of storm overflows into rivers. Despite the number and duration of discharges from storm overflows in Yorkshire decreasing in 2022 we understand they happen more than our customers would like, and we are determined to tackle this issue and do our bit for river health.

Tackling overflows, which were designed into the system as a relief valve, is a priority for us, but it is also a significant task. In Yorkshire, we have over 2,200 overflows and we know replumbing the whole of Yorkshire is not a quick fix as it would be both significantly disruptive and costly to customers. But, further investment from our shareholders is helping us tackle this issue.

We’ve now launched a project that will see £180m spent on storm overflow improvements in the next two years. This will target the overflows we know are operating more frequently and for longer. Our teams are already on the ground working on the first of these overflows and the investment will help to reduce discharges by at least 20%, but in most cases, we’ll be going way beyond that and reducing them significantly.


Andrew Jones MP said:

Tackling the Victorian storm overflows, which act as a safety valve when the sewers are overloaded, is a significant task. I know from my meetings with Yorkshire Water and Ms Shaw that the scale of that task and its importance is recognised.

The immediate and ongoing investment is welcome. We have already seen a reduction in the operation of storm overflows and it is important that this is sustained and accelerated. Concentrating on the overflows that discharge most heavily and most often in the initial phase is sensible.

I will continue to work with Yorkshire Water, the Environment Agency, local businesses and residents to improve water quality. This announcement, and the reductions in discharges over the last year, demonstrates the importance of working together in a constructive and positive way

The £180m investment can broadly be split into four different types of work:

  • Increasing storage within Yorkshire Water’s wastewater treatment works
  • Preventing surface water entering the sewer system
  • Reducing infiltration into sewers
  • Small changes to the operation of treatment works

Work in these areas will include building additional storage tanks to retain more wastewater, holding it back, so it doesn’t go through overflows, redirecting rainwater away from sewers and into water butts or SUDs, removing water sources that shouldn’t be plumbed in the network and preventing water naturally seeping in and changing how we operate the wider sewer network and pumping stations that could reduce the need for overflows to kick in to action.

Nicola added:

Storm overflows are a priority for us and that’s why we’ve funded these improvements. We’re going beyond the government’s storm overflow reduction plan and we’re already planning our largest ever environmental investment programme between 2025 and 2030, this is only the beginning as we embark on the biggest investment programme since privatisation.

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