Defra launches Water Restoration Fund

A new fund has been established to support local people looking to improve and support their water environment.

Jay flying over the river

Where previously, fines and penalties from water companies were returned to the Treasury, the new fund will channel money from water company fines and penalties – paid from water company profits into supporting farmers and land managers, eNGOs, community groups and councils to carry out on-the-ground projects to protect and improve our rivers, lakes, and streams. According to Defra, the new Water Restoration Fund is in addition to any money water companies need pay to clean up the original impact of pollution incidents.

Defra reports to be committed to holding water companies accountable for their actions.”When they are fined by the courts or issued with penalties from regulators for causing environmental damage, it is only right that the fine money is used to restore and protect our waters in the region where damage has been done”, states Defra.

A total of £11 million will be made available for local projects in regions where fines and penalties have been issued between April 2022 and October 2023. The water companies who have paid fines and penalties in this period for environmental offences are Anglian Water, South West Water, Thames Water, Yorkshire Water and United Utilities. Fines and penalties from October 2023 will be used for future years.

From re-meandering rivers and restoring water-dependent habitats, to removing barriers to fish migration and increasing sustainable public access to nature, the Fund has the potential to support a wide range of projects focused on improving the water environment and management of our water bodies. Furthermore, the fund will enable local groups to pilot new innovative technologies to deliver their projects, ranging from the use of data and artificial intelligence to using mapping software and remote sensing technologies.

As part of the Plan for Water, over £2.2 billion of new, accelerated investment will be directed into vital infrastructure to improve water quality and secure future supplies, with £1.7 billion of this being used to tackle storm overflows. Water companies will be fast tracking £180 million of investment to prevent sewage spills over the next 12 months.