Agenda and minutes

Virtual briefing meeting with South West Water, Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 2nd November, 2022 10.00 am

Venue: Online via Zoom

Contact: Sarah Jenkins  01395 517406; email

Note: This meeting will be 10.00 - 11.30am 


No. Item


Declarations of interest

Guidance is available online to Councillors and co-opted members on making declarations of interest



It was noted that all Members had an equal interest as customers of South West Water.


Chair's opening comments, welcome and introductions


The Chair welcomed Mr Alan Burrows, South West Water Director of Environmental Liaison and Culture, to the meeting.  The Chair expressed the hope that the meeting continues the constructive dialogue between the Council and South West Water (SWW) which began when Mr Burrows attended a meeting in March of this year.


It was noted that Councillors had not submitted questions for Mr Burrows prior to the meeting.  Members of the public had submitted questions and there would be an opportunity for these to be put later in the meeting.


Presentation by South West Water on beach and river water quality followed by questions from Members of the Scrutiny Committee, Members and the public


Mr Burrows’ presentation included the following points:

·         SWW serves 2 million customers and up to 9 million people during the tourist season, with 19,000km of pipework, £300m a year investment in the region, 2,500 employees and a net zero commitment by 2030.

·         The WaterFit programme comprises the following main areas; nurturing healthy rivers and seas, putting nature on everyone’s doorstep, creating and restoring habitats, inspiring local champions, creating a sustainable future and putting people in control.

·         With regard to monitoring, data and transparency, Mr Burrows advised that there is a programme in place to provide real time information, in accordance with the Environment Act, although it was noted that elements of the Environment Act have yet to be enacted.  A Defra consultation would be launched in January to provide understanding of how the Environment Act would be enacted and to ensure consistency of delivery across all of the water companies.  However, SWW was progressing the installation of monitors on storm overflows and making sure that data was being used in decision making.

·         With regard to storm overflows, it was noted that, on occasion, members of the public wrongly connect into surface water drains eg. when building an extension.

·         There are currently two types of pollution alert system in place; firstly, BeachLive which is SWW’s own warning system which operates all year round with alerts issued in real time and secondly, the Environment Agency Pollution Risk Forecasts which operate from May to September and alerts once a day between 08.30 and 09.00am.  A Pollution Risk Forecast may be caused by factors other than sewage and storm overflow, including urban or agricultural run off.

·         There is a campaign in place to educate the public with regard to removing wet wipes from the system at source as it was noted that, on its own, SWW cannot make all the changes everyone wants to see.


Responses to questions from Members of the Scrutiny Committee included the following:

·         SWW would follow up on the number of local residents who are not on mains drainage and therefore not contributing to the problem with wet wipes and provide figures following the meeting.  With regard to reducing the impact of wet wipes on the environment, Water UK is working with the Government on this issue and SWW has its own initiative of educating the public regarding the impact of flushing non-degradable wet wipes down toilets.

·         SWW is committed to installing EDMs (event duration monitors) on all of its storm overflows by 2023 as required.  SWW is also committed to providing real time information under the provisions of the Environment Act, although the exact detail of what will be required is not yet known. 

·         SWW’s WaterFit initiative was launched in the autumn of 2021 and is on track with its aim of reducing the impact of storm overflows by 2025.  Progress is checked on a weekly basis to ensure work is on target.

·         The targets set by the Environment Agency are harder to meet year on year  ...  view the full minutes text for item 41.