Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, has today (15th March) been taking evidence from Welsh water companies and regulators on the work being done to improve water quality in Welsh rivers and coastlines.
The Committee questioned Wales’ two water companies, Dŵr Cymru (Welsh Water), which serves the majority of Wales, and smaller firm Hafren Dyfrdwy as well as regulators NRW ( Natural Resources Wales) and Ofwat.
Leading the heated discussion, Stephen Crabb used the opportunity to speak out on behalf of Pembrokeshire residents regarding storm overflow discharges, the accuracy of discharge monitoring and the increases in household water bills.
The Committee has heard that around a third of all rivers in Wales fail to meet targets on levels of phosphorus, while five of nine Welsh rivers designated as Special Areas of Conservation are failing on phosphorus and excessive nutrients. Only 40% of rivers in Wales currently meet the criteria for good ecological status.
During the session, Stephen highlighted that “in 2021, 79,000 hours of sewage outflow was released in Pembrokeshire” and expressed his concern that not enough action is being taken to improve water infrastructure and tackle this pressing issue.
In 2020, there were 105,751 sewage spills into waterways across Wales recorded by event duration monitors (EDMs). Spills from storm overflows pose risks to river and public health due to the introduction of pollutants and bacteria. In Wales, these issues are the responsibility of Welsh Government.
Stephen also tackled Dwr Cymru why customers are being billed for sewage treatment costs when so much sewage isn’t being treated and released into open water.
In his closing remarks of the session, Stephen Crabb said, “I feel pretty depressed for my constituents in Pembrokeshire who in 2021 had more than 79,000 hours of sewage outflow in waters in Pembrokeshire, last summer they were subjected to a hose pipe ban. And we haven’t even got on to talking about water that leaks out of the system which meant that one of the rainiest parts of the country was put under a hose pipe ban last summer, and on top of that they have the prospect of higher bills but not necessarily a clear plan for reducing sewage discharges.”
He added, “I think there will be a rising tide of public concern about this issue not just for Wales but right across the UK in the years ahead.”
Following the Committee, Stephen Crabb MP said,
“There has been a lot of media interest and a strong public reaction to the issue of sewage and water pollution particularly around storm overflow discharges. In my own constituency in Pembrokeshire, water quality is an important issue as we have so many water-sports enthusiasts, wild swimmers, and tourists who spend time in, on and under, rivers and the sea year-round. I’m pleased I was able to challenge water companies and regulators about their record in Pembrokeshire - and what is really needed now is for Welsh Government to step up and take action to protect our waters.”