Southern Water unveils multimillion-pound package of investment to improve Chichester and Langstone harbours

Southern Water has announced today a new multimillion-pound package of investment, saying it is committed to action to improve Chichester and Langstone harbours.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 11:35 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 11:35 am

Chief executive Ian McAulay has also offered to host a summit of senior leaders, aimed at helping to improve the water quality and important natural habitats in the interconnecting waterways.

Key parties have welcomed the news but say they are keen to see the details and will work together to help to drive the action forward.

Mr McAulay’s announcement today, Wednesday, April 7, follows a series of top-level meetings with local campaigners and political leaders, including Chichester MP Gillian Keegan and Havant MP Alan Mak.

On the water at Chichester Harbour, with a view to Kingley Vale

Part of the investment is a new £5million environmental improvement fund and central to the utility company’s commitment to the harbours is an undertaking that a proportion of this will be invested with partners on initiatives that deliver nature-based solutions and environment net-gain for both harbours.

Mr McAulay said: “Saving the internationally important and threatened habitats at Chichester and Langstone harbours is incredibly important to us, our customers and our stakeholders. We are absolutely committed to playing our part by reducing the harm to the harbours’ waters from Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).

“Our new £5million environmental improvement fund, as part of our overall spending plans for 2021/22 and beyond, clearly demonstrates Southern Water’s commitment to being an active and involved member of the newly-formed Chichester Harbour Protection & Recovery of Nature group (CHaPRoN). This emerging group is a very welcome and positive step forward in forging a powerful partnership to save our harbours.

“Working together with a shared action plan, we truly believe we can make significant strides to improve the water quality of our harbours, this will benefit the environment, water users and support the local economy.

An aerial photograph of the top of Chichester Harbour and the A259 corridor

“As part of our commitment to working within this partnership, we are offering to host a summit of senior leaders at which I hope we will agree a shared action plan.”

Southern Water says it is investing £1.7billion over the next four years across the south east to improve the capacity and efficiency of the waste water network and reduce the number of releases from CSOs. This includes £13million to be invested to improve instrumentation and data capture that further reduces the risk to the environment from storm overflows, including at Budds Farm, which releases into Langstone Harbour.

A major £6.5million scheme to reduce groundwater infiltration into the vast Chichester sewer network is also planned - Southern Water says every drop of groundwater that can be kept out of the network reduces the need for storm overflows.

The investment builds on the £3.2billion Southern Water has spent since 2015 to improve and maintain its assets across the south east.

Mr McAulay added: “In one of the most water-stressed regions in Europe, we believe that more can be done to ensure housing and buildings are both water and nutrient efficient and that sustainable drainage solutions should be incorporated into all new developments.

“We also want to champion the importance of labelling appliances for their water efficiency.

“We advocate the importance of all farms in the catchments of the harbours following the code of good agricultural practise and a moratorium on emptying of bilges while in the harbour.

“Having a shared understanding of the sources and pathways of nutrients will enable all partners to target our efforts where they will have most effect.”

Mrs Keegan welcomed the investment plans and the company’s efforts to improve community engagement, saying they were ‘definitely a step in the right direction’.

But she added: “It is of course important that it leads to tangible results. I will continue to work closely with Southern Water, all the statutory agencies, my neighbouring MPs and Government ministers to address the current declining state of the harbour.

“I’m looking forward to hearing more detail on the proposals to ensure we develop a solution-focused approach.”

One of the key concerns of local campaigners has been the effect on wildlife and the need to retain wildlife corridors.

Richard Craven, director and harbour master for Chichester Harbour Conservancy, implied the devil would be in the detail.

He said: “This new investment by Southern Water is to be welcomed. However, we wait to see how much of the £5million environment investment fund will be directly invested in helping to save the habitats and wildlife of Chichester Harbour.

“We look forward to seeing the detail and attending a summit that can drive forward the action we all know is urgently needed.”

James Seymour, Natural England area manager, said: “Wildlife is declining, affecting the people who use and live around the harbours, so immediate and urgent commitment is needed by all stakeholders to address the challenges we identified in our 2021 condition report.

“We welcome Southern Water’s announcement to support people working together in collaborative projects such as CHaPRoN to save the harbours and their wildlife for the enjoyment now and for future generations.”

Southern Water listed the action already taken to reduce the contribution that wastewater treatment works make to nutrient enrichment in the harbours:

A 90 per cent reduction in the nitrates going from wastewater treatments works into the harbours. These works now contribute less than 10 per cent of the overall nitrate levels in the harbours and all operate within nitrate permit conditions.

CSOs contribute just one per cent to the nitrates in the harbours and all works operate well within nitrate permit conditions.

Creating one of the few CSOs in the UK with UV treatment to sterilise storm releases at Chichester.

An online storm release notification system, Beachbuoy that helps our customers and partners by providing near real time information about CSO activity at designated bathing waters and recreational watercourses. Beachbuoy will cover all 83 designated bathing waters and Chichester Harbour and Langstone Harbour by the end of May.

A roll out of Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) technology across 98 per cent of the network since 2017 to build a clearer and more detailed picture of the use of CSOs, that helps to target future investment and operational activity. Further investment to ensure 100 per cent coverage by 2025 is in place. Southern Water led the industry in the roll out of EDM technology.

One of the first published Pollution Incident Reduction Plans (PIRP) which details a programme of activities to deliver a sustainable reduction in pollution incidents.