An on-line meeting was held with 3 representatives of Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on the 2nd of Feb.
The NRW participants:
Carol Fielding - NRW Regional Manager for Ceredigian. Leads Environment team with responsibility for protected sites, compliance and incidents.
Mark Squire - NRW Principal Advisor Regulation - Gave presentation on Combined Sewage Outfalls (CSOs)
Rhian Thomas - NRW Principal Advisor Strategic Projects – Gave presentation on Phosphates in the SAC Rivers
The 2 presentations will are shown below.
Summary of Discussions
a) SAC Rivers and Phosphate Issue
Water quality targets still reference the EU Water Quality Directive which was tightened in 2015.
Assessment completed and reports issued that 5 of 9 SAC rivers in Wales are not meeting Phosphate targets, includes the lower Teifi. Within Teifi 8 sub catchments passed, 8 failed, 3 not assessed due to insufficient data.
Source of phosphates have been modelled and 67% of Teifi phosphates come from sewage treatment works, 28% from Rural Land use, and 3% linked to CSO outfalls.
Policy and Technical Task Forces established and stakeholder group being set up (we hope to have representation on the stakeholder group) Policy to prevent further development and address existing issues through monitoring and enforcement.
Expect some investment from Welsh Water to resolve the issue in next 2 years but a focus for action during the next 10 years - UK Government expect the issue to be resolved by 2038
NRW SAC River Project Workstreams:
Water Quality Improvements
Monitoring & Evidence
Materials to Land
NRW main actions: Rivers for LIFE (water quality restoration); Planning advice; Review Permits (20m3/day or more – next 12-18 Months); Nutrient Management Boards; First Minister Summit Action Plan (due after 9 Feb 2023)
b) Water Quality and CSOs
Variety of organisations regulate the Water Industry (NRW, Ofwat, Environment Agency, Drinking Water Inspectorate) Highest priority is clean drinking water with very high standards
Welsh Water has permits to discharge sewage into rivers via CSOs during 'storm' events. Most CSO discharges are within permit Welsh Government and NRW want to reduce the number of events. *Policy is to assess impact a permit does not prevent enforcement. Which is usually in form of work notices not prosecutions.
Getting rid of CSO's will cost £41 billion across the UK, £14 billion for Welsh Water.
Welsh water spends about £2 billion of investment in its water and sewage systems over a 5 year period.
NRW reviewing how it regulates CSOs
Welsh Government and NRW have agreed with Welsh Water to focus on CSOs which are causing harm to the environment (this includes human health) Assessment of which CSOs are causing harm currently being undertaken and should be completed by 2027.
Investment to resolve CSO issue unlikely to start before 2025 and will take 20 or more years.
NRW reviewing permits for CSO operation – taking into account river usage and set clearer parameters and definitions within permits. To include nutrient loads and volumes of discharges.
c) Other Issues
NRW exploring citizen science as a way to support its activities. Currently reviewing frameworks and policies. Expect to move forward with projects in 12-18 months time.
NRW reviewing framework for bathing waters, in particular potential inland (river/lake) sites. Will explore greater discussion with Poppit SeaGals swimming group.
NRW will investigate pollution incidents when they are reported but resources are limited
NRW happy to hold a further meeting looking at the Teifi and pollution incidents that have been reported
NRW will get additional resources to monitor and enforce the lower Nitrate levels regulations from slurry use by farmers in rural land use, as of 1 Apr 2023. This will take 3 years to implement by NRW.
1. NRW SAC Rivers and Phosphate Issue presentation
Mark's presentation also went on to talk about the Welsh Governments "Environmental regulation of overflows: action plan", in which
NRW is reviewing and implementing changes, to the current regulatory framework to "ensure clear guidance, processes, and regulatory tools for improving poorly performing assets are in place to ensure that all storm overflows operate within the parameters of their permit."