Enhancing the wild
Our work in partnership with the local Wildlife Trusts – to deliver cleaner rivers, good quality habitats for wildlife and more natural solutions for flood alleviation and carbon storage – has continued apace. Together, we are delivering solutions where the challenges are particularly acute in areas across Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.
We will progressively eliminate storm overflows, starting with those that discharge most frequently and those that have any environmental impact. Eight of the 444 rivers, lakes and seas in our region currently fall short of the standards required, due to the operation of storm overflows and we are currently investing more than £3 million every month to address this. Nature-based solutions and separating surface water before it enters the sewerage network must be our first choice, given the cost, carbon footprint and disruption associated with engineering solutions. We need government support for this in the form of powers for water companies to stop new developments being connected to combined sewers and for us to disconnect surface water where possible.
More generally, we are committed to improving the environmental status of all rivers within our region in line with the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and the Environment Act. We will also support others to reduce the impacts they have, by acting as a convener and leader of catchment partnerships and markets, helping different parties to work together to the greatest effect.
Water supply demand last summer was fairly muted, but the future looks challenging. In this reporting year, the Environment Agency classified the Wessex Water area as seriously water stressed for the first time. Against that backdrop, we are working with our neighbouring water companies and other stakeholders to produce a long-term regional water resources plan, with ambitious targets to reduce demand, together with innovative supply side options.
Our greenhouse gas emissions and electricity use fell in the year and we also published a route map setting out how we plan to meet the industry wide target of net zero operational carbon emissions by 2030. By 2040, we intend for our entire business to be net zero total carbon, 10 years ahead of the target for the UK as a whole.
We know how much our customers and communities value wildlife, and how much our planet needs us to reverse the decline in biodiversity we are witnessing. This year we completed the task of assessing the biodiversity value of all our significant landholdings and this will form the foundation of our work to support nature recovery.