We promise to protect and enhance the environment

We’re proud of our record of environmental improvement, which over the past 20 years has helped some of the region’s most beautiful landscapes to thrive, supporting wildlife and tourism.

Although we’ve achieved a huge amount, there are still big challenges ahead of us. New European legislation means we must continue to improve our performance and explore new, collaborative ways of working.

In our wastewater business the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, which designates sensitive areas, requires us to improve water quality at these locations. The Water Framework Directive will also drive tighter treatment standards at our wastewater treatment works, requiring us to remove substances such as phosphorous.

Meanwhile, in our sewer network, we will need to provide more storage to reduce the number of discharges when it rains.

We need to ensure we play our part in improving the beaches in the North West so that they meet the new standards expected by the Bathing Water Directive.

This means we will have to provide further capacity and treatment at our wastewater sites on the coast.

Over the past two decades we’ve undertaken significant work to meet the requirements of the European Habitats Directive where our water abstractions have impacted on internationally protected or endangered species. However, new and emerging evidence means there is also further work needed to meet our future obligations, particularly in the West Cumbria area. We also need to ensure our wastewater activities do not endanger areas of special ecological interest, such as Windermere and Rostherne Mere.

For our water service, the Water Framework Directive will drive changes to the way we abstract water, either by reducing the amount of water we take to increase flow in rivers or by implementing new abstraction methods. This will help to protect fish, fresh water mussels, eels and elvers impacted by our abstraction.

What customers and stakeholders told us so far

In recent conversations, the majority of stakeholders told us that protecting and enhancing the environment was really important – and customers told us that this is part of our role to support the North West.

Feedback included:

  • 66% of customers think protecting and enhancing the environment is ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important
  • There is a need to make sure the region’s water and wastewater network can cope with the impact of climate change, especially heavy rainfall and drought
  • Enhancing the region’s natural environment, including bathing waters, is important for wildlife and tourism. Partnerships are key to achieving results.
  • I think it is important. The water and waste is important, but we’re sort of custodians of the countryside of the place we live.


What we’ll achieve

Cleaner bathing waters and beaches

We’ll work with others to ensure cleaner beaches, bathing and shellfish waters throughout the North West, ensuring we protect the local economy and support tourism by reducing pollution.

Land, lakes, rivers, reservoirs and coastal waters are protected

We’ll contribute towards an enhanced natural environment – from abstraction of water for drinking and management of the land it flows across, through to how we return wastewater after it has been treated. We’ll offer opportunities to access our land for recreation or leisure activities.

A business fit for a changing climate

We’ll ensure our water and wastewater services and assets are resilient to a changing climate. We’ll reduce our carbon footprint and produce our own source of renewable energy.

Our proposals for the next 25 years:

Service improvements
Maintaining service

In the years ahead, we’ll continue to be a responsible steward of the region’s land, rivers, reservoirs, lakes and coastal waters. We will meet new legislative standards, support biodiversity and wildlife habitats, play our part in creating cleaner bathing waters and beaches, and deliver crucial benefits for the region’s tourism industries.

We will work in partnership with like-minded organisations to deliver far-reaching results, and will be prepared to challenge regulatory requirements when we believe that the costs (and hence implications for customers’ bills) do not justify the end results.

Reducing our carbon footprint remains at the heart of our strategy to manage our impact on a changing climate. We will reduce our carbon emissions by 50 per cent (from levels in 2005/06) by 2035, a pledge we committed to back in 2010 and are on target to meet. We will also ensure we continue to deliver our services as the climate changes.

Our focus will be on

Legal and regulatory requirements

Since privatisation, we have invested £8.1 billion to meet new standards and requirements that have benefitted the natural environment. This has enabled people across the North West to make greater use of the natural environment around them. In the future, we will continue to be required to meet new environmental obligations. At the moment, we don’t have all the technology we need to meet these requirements at a price that is cost effective for our customers. So we will continue to invest in our own and collaborative research projects, as well as challenging our suppliers to come up with new and better ways of doing things. At the same time we’ll work with our regulators and stakeholders to agree the pace at which improvements are required.

Playing our part in cleaner beaches, rivers and coastal waters

Improving bathing water quality and beaches requires action by a wide range of organisations whose activities can all have an impact on the quality of our coastlines. For our part, we will continue to explore innovative ways of managing our sewer network, of limiting the frequency of sewer discharges into the environment and of upgrading our wastewater treatment works. We will continue to share our expertise, resources and skills with local authorities and other partners and be an active participant in joint projects to tackle these issues. Our management of catchment land will also contribute to enhancing and protecting raw water quality in our reservoirs, as well as shellfish waters.

Putting waste to work

Sludge, a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, used to be regarded as a waste product but is now recognised as a valuable source of energy production. By using more of the sludge we produce for renewable energy generation and returning nutrients back to the soil, we can reduce our operating costs. We’ll also be mindful of new ways to generate energy as they emerge. In the future, we will look for ways to further reduce our reliance on natural resources, which are likely to cost more, while also finding ways to make better use of the sewage we receive – in effect, starting to think about our wastewater treatment facilities as factories that generate energy.

Improving ‘raw’ water quality

By improving the quality of the ‘raw’ water we collect from rivers and reservoirs, we can reduce the amount of chemicals and energy required to treat it at our water treatment works. We will continue to work in partnership with other stakeholders, landowners and industry to manage our catchment land more effectively, so that the water collected is of the best possible quality. When it comes to water treatment, we will seek to develop innovative solutions which reduce the need for more expensive, energy-intensive treatment options.

Maintaining public access

Our catchment land is located in some of the most scenic and spectacular places in the UK, such as the Lake District, the Peak District and the Forest of Bowland. We are committed to maintaining high levels of public access, so the beautiful landscapes we manage can be enjoyed by all. We will also continue to protect the heritage sites we have been entrusted with, working in collaboration with partners and the local community.