Yorkshire Water will invest up to £13m in its wastewater network and treatment works, upstream of a stretch of the River Wharfe at Ilkley designated as an inland bathing water, to help improve water quality.

The utility company has called on other stakeholders to take steps to tackle additional sources of pollution. The announcement comes as the UK’s first inland bathing water at Ilkley is expected to be rated ‘poor’ by the Environment Agency.

In the year since the bathing water designation, Yorkshire Water has been modelling the catchment around Ilkley to understand the factors influencing water quality.

The modelling has indicated during periods of dry weather the main contributors to background bacteria were from agricultural operations, local domestic waste patterns, misconnections, and treatment works at Beamsley, Draughton and Grassington.

Further modelling will be taking place in the future to increase available data and improve the understanding of all factors influencing water quality in the river.

Yorkshire Water is committing up to £13m investment in a range of measures that aim to improve the Wharfe upstream of the bathing water. Enhanced disinfection measures will be applied to the final effluent returned to the environment at Grassington, Draughton and Beamsley treatment works, much like the measures taken on the coast, to reduce the impact on water quality.

Work will also be carried out to investigate misconnections in the catchment and a scheme to reroute the sewer network in some areas of Ilkley will be carried out to reduce discharges from storm overflows. A project is already underway to upgrade Rivadale CSO as part of this investment.

Ben Roche, director of wastewater at Yorkshire Water, said: “We’re keen to play our part in improving water quality in the River Wharfe following the first Environment Agency classification of the inland bathing water at Ilkley. Our modelling indicates acting upstream of the bathing water, at our treatment works at Grassington, Draughton and Beamsley, will deliver the greatest benefit in terms of improving water quality via our assets. We are also assessing the pumping station at Addingham and considering green and sustainable solutions.

“We have outlined up to £13m investment in our network that will help to reduce discharges into the river during prolonged spells of rain and reduce the impact of treated effluent being returned to the environment. This funding is over and above existing investment plans for the current five-year period.

“While our investment will help improve water quality, it alone will not guarantee an improvement in the bathing water classification. Our modelling indicates pollution is entering the watercourses from a variety of sources, including misconnections and agricultural land which the river and its tributaries run through. It is important other landowners and stakeholders take action to ensure water quality is improved in the future, with the ultimate aim of improving the bathing water classification.”

Work is already ongoing, in collaboration with Bradford Council and the Environment Agency, to reduce infiltration of surface water into the sewer network from Ilkley Tarn. A smart wastewater network pilot for Ilkley will begin this year to trial using smart monitoring, analytics and control solutions to understand the sewer network from homes to treatment works and, once treated, discharges back into the environment.

It is hoped the pilot will offer real-time, end-to-end management and control of wastewater assets, reducing intermittent discharges from CSOs and sewer flooding, identifying areas for further investment and improving energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions.

Yorkshire Water has also assisted with the iWharfe project, a citizen science initiative conducted by the Ilkley Clean River Group, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and Addingham Environment Group. One of its conclusions was in tributary becks from Bolton Abbey to Ilkley there are occasions during the bathing water season when weather patterns and riverflow behaviour can combine to generate faecal bacteria concentrations in the main river that are unsafe for bathing, independently of discharges from sewage treatment works and combined sewer overflows.

The Environment Agency has launched a consultation on proposed changes to the water company drought plan guidelines.

The consultation will last for 6 weeks, running until 18 October 2019.

As part of a longer term strategy we are seeking views on drought plans to ensure water companies are better prepared to respond to possible droughts.

The new drought plans will be clearer, show exactly what action companies must take early and at each trigger point, and ensure companies monitor and manage demand, including leakage.

The consultation responses and separate ongoing discussions with water companies will be used to refine the guidelines. An updated version of the guidelines will be published at the end of 2019 so water companies can start preparing their drought plans in early 2020.

Paul Hickey, Deputy Director of Water Resources at the Environment Agency and Institute of Water Board Member, said:

“Prolonged dry weather and drought events could become more frequent in future with the pressures of climate change and population growth. We are seeking your views on how water companies should develop their next round of drought plans so they are properly prepared for these events.

“The Environment Agency ensures drought plans are robust and clearly set out on how water companies will maintain water supplies and uphold environmental protection.

“I encourage engagement in this consultation so that together we can help mitigate the impacts of drought on people and the environment.”

You can access the consultation documents HERE.

The British public are being asked to help the country protect water resources for future generations.

The British public are being asked to help the country protect water resources for future generations as part of a major campaign launched today by more than 40 environmental groups, charities, water companies and regulators.

Clean, healthy and readily available water is essential for health and wellbeing, as well as economic growth, but as the climate emergency and population growth put increasing pressure on the water environment, the UK is facing hotter and drier summers and an increased risk of water shortages.

The UK already has less available water than most other European countries and the average person uses a staggering 150 litres per day. Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, gave a stark warning earlier this year that the country is approaching the ‘jaws of death’ as parts of England are at risk of running out of water within 25 years.

The ‘Love Water’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of water and the role everyone plays in protecting it. It is the first time such a large group of partners have joined together to work with businesses and consumers to tackle issues such as pollution and wastage.

The long-term campaign is led by bodies including the Environment Agency, Water UK, Ofwat, NFU and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) among others. It will feature events and initiatives, such as beach and river cleans-ups and water saving projects, designed to engage the public and encourage them to enjoy water and the environment.

‘Love Water’ is also inviting businesses and other companies to get involved by supporting the campaign through promotional activity while pledging to do their bit to save water and protect the environment by reducing pollution and waste.

The campaign’s long-term ambition is to call on businesses to make water-saving and pollution reduction part of their operational and corporate responsibility targets.

It is being launched as part of the government’s Year of Green Action which aims to help people to connect with, protect and enhance nature.

Many people are not aware that actions like tipping waste liquids down roadside drains, flushing wet wipes or washing up greasy pans in the sink harm wildlife and affect water quality by causing pollution in local rivers, lakes and the sea. The campaign will raise awareness of the small changes people can make to achieve a big difference:

  • The UK water industry spends £100 million each year on clearing blockages caused by the wrong things going down sinks and loos. In February, United Utilities spent 8 weeks clearing a 90 tonne fat berg beneath the streets of Liverpool – more than 84 metres long.
  • Research by Keep Britain Tidy shows that 1 in 4 people admit to littering. Last year, a spring beach clean organised by Surfers Against Sewage removed almost 66 tonnes of litter from beaches across the country.
  • 72% of people surveyed said they used wet wipes, although most brands are not flushable and can cause blockages and pollution when they get into sewers.
  • One litre of oil poured down the sink can pollute one million litres of water.
  • If everyone in the UK turned off the tap when brushing their teeth we would save 1,584,000,000 litres (1584 megalitres) a day.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said:

“Most people agree that water is a precious resource but too often we take it for granted and don’t see how our actions have a direct effect on the local rivers, lakes and beaches we all care about. Our campaign intends to change that by urging people to use water wisely and to think before pouring cooking oil down the drain or flushing a wet wipe away.

We know that everyone has a duty to preserve and protect water and the campaign will also work with industry, water companies and other regulators in the longer-term to cut down on wastage.”

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of Water UK said:

“The Love Water campaign is a great way to get the public to think about the link between the water we all use and the rivers and lakes that provide it and sustain our environment.

But we also know the water industry must play its role which is why we have set out ambitious plans to reduce leakage alongside a new programme for helping the environment, which will see 8000 km of rivers cleaned and improved.

We all need to take action so that this country does not run out of water in the middle part of this century. Only by working together can we bring about the changes needed to ensure we have a resilient water environment now and in the future.”

Rachel Fletcher, Chief Executive at Ofwat said:

“We all have a part to play to protect and preserve this most vital resource. We look forward to working with partners within and outside the water sector to encourage everyone to do their bit and think about the value of water.”

Martin Spray CBE, Chief Executive of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) said:

“Every day in our wetlands we see the impact that poor water quality and quantity can have on wildlife. More than half of species in British freshwaters are in decline, with 13% threatened with extinction including wading birds like curlew and plants like triangular club rush.

We all need to make the mental connection that our water comes from and returns to the natural world – via our taps and drains – so it’s up to us to care for that water for the sake of all life, including ourselves.”

NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said:

“Water is fundamental to food production and is absolutely essential to nearly every food item British farmers produce. Water availability is often only talked about during times of flood or drought but we need to raise the awareness of its essential role 365 days a year. It plays an absolutely critical part in delivering safe, traceable and affordable food to the nation.”

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive at WaterAid, said:

“Around the world, one in ten people live without safe water close to home. Water is a precious resource that we cannot take for granted, and we are delighted that the Love Water campaign is raising awareness of this important issue. It is vital that we work together to manage this precious resource in the UK and globally so we can achieve a world where clean water is normal for everyone, everywhere.”

Yesterday’s speech by Environment Agency chief executive James Bevan about the high risks water scarcity in the UK poses was covered widely in national media.

Lila Thompson, chief executive, British Water, said,

“British Water welcomes the speech from Environment Agency chief executive Sir James Bevan about the UK’s pending water crisis and the “mix of methods” needed to reduce demand and increase supply. Water scarcity is a very serious issue in the UK and globally and British Water members are very keen to play their part alongside the water utilities, the regulators and the public in achieving long-term water resilience.

“The water industry supply chain has a long history of innovation in meeting crises in water and sanitation evidenced over many decades. The UK already boasts a very broad range of technologies and expertise which include areas such as leakage detection, smart metering, data analytics and sustainable water management.

“As the UK’s lead trade association for the water industry, our members can provide knowledge and experience in every aspect of water technology, services and infrastructure. We are always ready to put those connections to work for the water industry in the UK and internationally.”


Environmental charities and projects will benefit from more than £2.2 million in payments thanks to enforcement undertakings agreed with the Environment Agency.

Companies and individuals will make the payments for environmental offences including pollution of rivers or the sea, not meeting permit conditions or not taking reasonable steps to recover packaging waste.

A total of 15 charities and projects will benefit from the £2,223,121.54 with the money to be spent by local groups on projects that benefit the environment including cleaning up and enhancing parks, rivers and beaches.

The latest list includes the Environment Agency’s largest ever financial contribution of £975,000 offered by Wessex Water Services Limited for an environmental offence involving sewage spills at Swanage in Dorset. The funds will benefit Dorset Waste Partnership (£400,000), Dorset Litter Free Coast and Sea Project (£100,000), Purbeck District Council/Swanage Town Council (£400,000) and Durlston Country Park and Nature Reserve (£75,000).

There are another 14 Enforcement Undertakings with payments ranging from £5,000 – £232,000, including:

  • United Utilities Water Limited – £232,000 benefitting Mersey Rivers Trust (£90,000) and Community Forest Trust (£142,000) for discharging sewage into a brook
  • Yorkshire Water Services Limited – £200,000 benefitting Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for polluting a river.
  • Northumbrian Water Limited – £135,000 benefitting Durham Wildlife Trust (£45,000), Wear Rivers Trust (£45,000), Marine Conservation Society (£45,000) for polluting a stream.
  • Carlsberg Supply Company UK Limited – £120,000 benefitting the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire (£80,000) and River Nene Regional Park Community Interest Company (£40,000) for polluting a river.
  • Tesco Distribution Limited – £100,000 benefitting Yorkshire Wildlife Trust for discharging diesel into a watercourse and ponds
  • Angel Springs Holdings Limited – £24,329 benefitting Marine Conservation Society for not taking reasonable steps to recover and recycle packaging waste.

As well as making a payment to an appropriate charity or project, these companies have accepted liability, demonstrated restoration of harm and will make improvements to avoid future offences.


Peter Kellett Director of Legal Services from the Environment Agency said:

“When companies damage the environment whether it is through polluting our waters or breaching permit conditions, we will take enforcement action against them including civil sanctions. We take these environmental incidents very seriously and these payments of more than £2.2 million direct to charities will help them carry out vital projects to improve our environment right across England.”

Ellie Brodie, Senior Policy Manager, The Wildlife Trusts said:

“Obviously, we would have been happier if these incidents hadn’t occurred at all. However, it’s a good principle that polluters should offer redress for the damage they cause.  The money will enable work which will benefit wildlife and wild places, and which otherwise wouldn’t be funded. We hope these payments serve as a reminder to business of its responsibility towards a clean and healthy environment; and also have a deterrent effect as it’s clearly cheaper to do things cleanly, rather than risk creating pollution.”  

Companies or members of the public are urged report pollution to the Environment Agency’s 24/7 hotline on 0800 80 70 60. Environment Agency officers respond to limit damage to the environment and protect people and wildlife.

The Environment Agency is increasingly using enforcement undertakings for suitable cases to restore or enhance the environment, improve practices of the offending business and ensure future compliance with environmental requirements. However prosecutions will still be taken, particularly in the most serious cases.