Severn Trent have signed a £100 million contract to build a new water treatment works that will help provide up to an additional 89 million litres of drinking water per day to the region, helping mitigate issues with water scarcity as the UK faces hotter summers through climate change, along with population growth.

A major project to secure water supplies for the future has taken a giant leap towards completion after a £100m contract was signed recently to build a state-of-the-art water treatment facility.     

Severn Trent, as part of its £566 million Green Recovery Programme, signed the contract with MWH Treatment to build the new facility called Witches Oak Water Treatment Works, near to its existing Church Wilne site – it is the highest value contract for an individual project Severn Trent has signed in AMP7.     

The new water treatment works will help provide up to an additional 89 million litres of drinking water per day to the region and will use innovative ceramic membrane technology provided by Nijhuis Saur Industries, that is currently in use in only one other large-scale treatment works in the country. 

When completed in 2025, the works will help ensure customers have a more secure and resilient supply for the future, helping mitigate issues with water scarcity as the UK faces hotter summers through climate change, along with population growth.         

The project will also see Severn Trent pre-treat water by using floating wetlands – this will help provide a more sustainable and nature-based treatment process whilst also bringing significant improvements in biodiversity.      

Chris Wand, Green Recovery Programme Director at Severn Trent said: “We’re delighted to work with MWH Treatment on this project, working collaboratively and delivering solutions to ensure our customers have a reliable water supply during the longer, hotter and drier summers we’ve been experiencing. 

“While it is still important to save water and look after our natural resources, this project will also be less carbon intensive than other traditional solutions. We’re looking forward to completing the build of this wonderful facility at Church Wilne and seeing the positive impact it will have for customers across our region.”     

Richard Thomson, the Project Director at MWH Treatment for Witches Oak Water Treatment Works, said: “MWH Treatment is excited to work with long-term client Severn Trent on a project which will deliver crucial water security for approximately 224,000 households.   

“A project such as this requires an investment in innovation and a commitment to real collaboration to ensure the project thoroughly integrates design and construction to the highest health and safety standards across the projects supply chain. We will facilitate this collaborative innovation by applying our Digital Delivery Tools including digital surveying, interactive visualisations, intelligent 3D models, rehearsals, and digital field management.”  

Thirty-three of the North East’s 34 Bathing Waters have been labelled either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ in the latest classifications announced today by Defra.

Twenty-four of the region’s bathing waters have met the ‘Excellent’ standard, nine are classified as ‘Good’.

Multi-agency work is ongoing at Cullercoats, the only bathing water area in the North East to not pass the standards, to identify and remedy the cause of a localised deterioration in quality resulting in its ‘Poor’ classification.

Compliance is based on the current and previous three years of sample data (a maximum of 80 samples per beach, from 2015 to 2018). The samples are taken by the Environment Agency between May and September each year to assess the bathing waters against the strict regulations.

Northumbrian Water’s Wastewater Director, Richard Warneford, said: “With more than two decades of investment having gone into improving bathing waters across the North East, it is very pleasing to see that 33 of our region’s 34 bathing waters have received ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’ status for the 2019 season.

“We know that work to enhance areas of our network, such as storm water storage facilities, and to divert surface water away from sewers through our Rainwise initiative, will have had a positive impact on these results and we will continue to drive improvements.

“At the turn of the Century, the North East had only four bathing waters that achieved the standards in place at the time, so it’s plain to see how far we have come and these results are something we and our partners can be proud of – the North East is a fantastic place for a visit to the beach!”

“At Northumbrian Water, we place the environment at the heart of everything we do, so we are very proud of the partnership work and investment that has led to today’s results and to making our beaches great places to visit.”

A joint investigation between the Environment Agency, North Tyneside Council and Northumbrian Water is ongoing regarding the localised deterioration of bathing water quality at Cullercoats.
Richard Warneford added: “The investigation at Cullercoats has already ruled out a number of potential factors and the Environment Agency has continued testing outside of the normal bathing water season, with results that show some signs for optimism. However, the joint investigations and work will continue until the cause is identified and any work that can be done has been carried out.

“Already, this activity has identified and allowed proactive measures to be taken on a number of third party sites, as well as on parts of our network, that will help protect against potential future problems that could otherwise one day have a detrimental effect on the local environment.”

Fiona Morris, Environment Manager at the Environment Agency in the North East, added: “The North East remains a real success story of drastic improvements over the past 30 years. In 1988, nearly half of our bathing waters failed to meet mandatory standards and now almost all of them are good or excellent. This is great news and we’d encourage people to get out and enjoy our beautiful coastline!

“We work closely with our partners at local authorities and Northumbrian Water to understand what impacts on a particular bathing water’s quality and then carry out work to try to improve it; such work has already been done at Cullercoats and is continuing.

“Regarding Cullercoats, our DNA analysis has identified an impact of predominantly human source. We will be taking further bathing water samples throughout the winter months and we, and our partners, are committed in our efforts to identify the source, to understand how it is getting into the bay and resolve any impacts.”

North East bathing waters which have achieved the ‘excellent’ standard are Bamburgh Castle, Seahouses North, Beadnell, Newbiggin North, Low Newton, Warkworth, Amble Links, Druridge Bay North, Druridge Bay South, Newbiggin South, Blyth South, Seaton Sluice, Whitley Bay, Tynemouth Longsands North, Tynemouth Longsands South, Tynemouth King Edwards Bay, Seaburn (Whitburn North), Roker (Whitburn South), Seaham, Crimdon, Seaton Carew (Centre), Seaton Carew (North Gare), Marske Sands and Saltburn.

Those that have achieved the ‘good’ standard are Marsden, Spittal, South Shields, Seaham Hall, Seaton Carew (North), Redcar Coatham, Redcar Lifeboat Station, Redcar Granville and Redcar Stray.
Northumbrian Water is encouraging its customers to also help to look after the region’s bathing waters by only flushing toilet paper, pee and poo down the loo and by not putting grease and fat down drains. This will help to prevent blockages and potential pollution.

  • For more detailed information on these bathing water results go here and for statistics here.
  • Each bathing water will have to display a standardised symbol for its classification. The symbols and further information can be found here. If a bathing water is designated as poor it must also display the standardised ‘advice against bathing’ symbol.
  • The Environment Agency publishes information about water quality at England’s bathing waters on their online bathing water data explorer, which can be found here.

An innovative and exciting new pilot cross-border Land Incentive Scheme has been launched in the River Derg catchment, which will support farmers in adopting farming practices that help to protect the quality of river water that is the source of drinking water for communities in Counties Donegal and Tyrone.

This scheme is part of a major €5.3M cross-border EU INTERREG VA funded project called Source to Tap, which aims to improve water quality in rivers and lakes in the Erne and Derg catchment areas which provide water that serves parts of counties Fermanagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Leitrim and Longford.

Diane Foster NI Water Project Manager said:
“The Source to Tap project is led by NI Water in partnership with Irish Water, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, East Border Region, Ulster University and The Rivers Trust and is funded by the EU’S INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).
“We are delighted to launch this initiative as part of the overall project, which will give the farming community the opportunity to apply for 100% funding to support farmers in making small changes in farming practices such as using a contractor to spray rushes and installing stock fencing on watercourses.”

The overall aim of the scheme is to protect raw water quality at source by reducing contaminants getting into the water in the first place and raise awareness of the importance of protecting our precious drinking water resources.

The scheme will run from 25 July 2018 to 31July 2020 and will be operated on a first come first served basis through the Source to Tap project. The project employs three Project Officers who will work closely with farmers in the Derg area to guide them through the application process and help them identify what improvements can be made on their farms to benefit both their farm businesses and the water environment.

Speaking at the launch event, UFU deputy president, David Brown said: “This project is win-win for both the environment and agriculture. Farmers understand the importance of water quality and want to help make a difference. This project will help to give them the advice and tools to do so. It is a great example of collaborative working and we are very pleased to be a part of it.”

Michael Chance, Chairman of the Donegal Irish Farmers’ Association said that this scheme will be of huge benefit to the people of Donegal and Tyrone:
“This is real money and will be hugely beneficial in contributing to the enhancement of farmland in the Derg Catchment area while ensuring the protection of our water source for generations to come.”

Michael Clarke, Co. Tyrone Chairman of the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association added:
“While this particular project directs funding towards improvement at source and this assists greatly with prevention of pollution, its impact will benefit complete communities in all walks of life and as such we fully support the initiative.”

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.

Further details are available by contacting +44 (0)7799 774702 or by e-mail at:

Smarta Water, Tor Water and Utility Bidder have been awarded Water Supply and Sewerage Licences (WSSLs) by economic regulator Ofwat to operate in the business retail water market. All three retailers can now supply water and remove wastewater for eligible customers in England and Wales.
Now in its second year, the business retail water market is the largest of its kind in the world and allows businesses, public bodies and charities to ‘shop around’ to identify the best retailer for them. The new entrants bring the total number of retailers operating in the market to 28, providing even greater choice for non-household customers.
Ofwat Senior Director for Customers and Casework, Emma Kelso said:
“It is good to see more retailers joining the retail water market. Competition in the market is vital to enable customers to get an even better overall package from their water retailer. By shopping around, customers can not only benefit from the best value for money for their water and wastewater, but also from a number of improved services such as better billing and excellent customer service.”
  • For more information on the business retail water market, visit
  • To view Ofwat’s detailed review of the first year of the business retail water market CLICK HERE.