Yorkshire Water boss reveals reasons behind drop in sewage discharges
The amount of time sewage was allowed to spill into Yorkshire’s waterways fell by 43 per cent, from 406,131 hours to 232,054 hours.
Ms Shaw said she was pleased with the reduction but last year’s drought had a significant impact as there is less pressure on the sewage system during spells of dry weather.
Yorkshire Water is permitted to use storm overflows to prevent sewage systems from becoming overloaded and backing up into homes.
“We are actually only using the storm overflows 1.3 per cent of the total time that they could be used,” said Ms Shaw.
“The reasons for that is a combination of better management of the existing assets and changing some of our assets to give ourselves more capacity.
“I’d like to go further than that. But it requires a lot of investment.”
The company has pledged to invest £180m in reducing storm overflows by 2025. It is also installing a new sewer that will significantly reduce the frequency and volume of discharges into the River Wharfe in Ilkley, when it opens in January.
That stretch of river was granted bathing status in 2021, but the Environment Agency has said swimming is “not advised”, as it contains effluent from storm overflows and runoff from livestock farms.
Last year, the agency also stated Yorkshire Water’s environmental performance requires “significant improvement”, as it recorded 74 pollution incidents in 2021 and five were serious.
Ms Shaw said the company is expected to achieve a better rating because “we have had fewer pollution incidents in 2022”.
She also defended Yorkshire Water’s decision to pay a £52.6m dividend to parent company Kelda Holdings Limited in 2021 and said the shareholders did not receive any money.
“Our shareholders lend us money in effect that they put equity in, just like when you get lent money for your mortgage and have to pay interest on it,” she said. “The fact that we're not paying any money to our shareholders is a worry to me.
“It's all about trying to keep money flowing into the network. It's been good that they haven't required dividends for the shareholders over the last five years, but I don't think it's sustainable.”
The Government said it would cost between £350bn and £600bn to eliminate sewage discharges, as water companies would need to completely separate the sewage and rainwater systems that homes and businesses across the country use.
The Government said there would need to be a significant increase in bills and widespread disruption.
In a bid to reduce discharges, the Government has launched The Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which sets water companies strict targets and requires them to invest £56bn in upgrading their networks.