MORE than £900m will be spent in Cumbria by water company United Utilities to improve storm overflows in the next six years.

Storm overflows spill sewage at times of exceptional rainfall, which is legal under current regulation.

There are more than 2,200 storm overflows within the wastewater system across the north west, and United Utilities compares spills to 'an overflow in a bath' by automatically releasing a diluted mixture of sewage and rainwater into the environment to prevent flooding. 

The water company wants storm overflows across its network to operate less than ten times each a year by 2050. 

A new dashboard created by Water UK shows the locations of every storm overflow nationally, and the timescale for achieving the target of 10 operations a year. 

The first phase of United Utilities' Storm Overflow Reduction Plan will take place up to 2030, and will involve £914m of improvements at 158 sites across Cumbria.

For example, the dashboard predicts that Ambleside Wastewater Treatment Works will meet its targets by 2027 by improving storage and putting in a new screen. 

The plan aims to meet the new requirements of the Environment Act 2021. Politicians have recently raised debates on sewage pollution entering the region's waterways. READ MORE: Up to 15 years of work needed to create sewage-free Windermere

The water company outlined schemes that have already been completed: 

  • "Cargo in Cumbria, where temporary treatment and storage facilities have been installed. It is already showing results since it came online in August 2023, with the number of spills reduced from 343 a year to just one occasion since then.  The temporary equipment will be replaced with a permanent installation over the coming months, and we expect to roll out a similar approach to other village treatment sites in rural Cumbria."
  • "Southwaite wastewater treatment works near Carlisle, where a new wetland has been created to clean the storm water before it enters the River Eden. The new reedbeds cover 1,500 square metres, an area the size of six tennis courts."

Schemes underway at other sites: 

  • "Ambleside, Elterwater, Near Sawrey and Hawkshead all near Windermere where a £41m project will involve the construction of new storm water storage and natural soakaway solutions will be created to reduce the volume of rainfall entering the sewer network."
  • "Staveley, where the capacity of the wastewater treatment works is being increased by 50 per cent and United Utilities is working with the council and village residents to remove rainwater before it can enter the sewer system through the use of sustainable drainage systems and rainwater harvesting.  By September 2024 this will reduce storm water spills into the River Kent by 35 per cent." 

Jo Harrison, asset management director at United Utilities, said: We are making a fundamental change to the way our sewer system has been designed, and change on this scale cannot happen overnight. We are re-plumbing our drainage systems, building storage tanks to increase the capacity, separating rainwater out of sewers, and harnessing the power of nature to treat storm water before it is returned to the environment. Work has already started and people are going to see much more of this over the next 25 years.”