Consultation on the Government’s Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan

Closed 12 May 2022

Opened 31 Mar 2022


Storm overflows are safety valves built into the combined sewer system to discharge excess sewage to rivers, lakes, or the sea when rainfall exceeds capacity. This protects properties from flooding and prevents sewage backing up into streets and homes during heavy storm events. A growing population, an increase in hard surfaces and more frequent and heavier storms because of climate change have increased pressure on the system, bringing the frequency of discharges to an unacceptable level. 

There are around 15,000 storm overflows in England, and in 2020 there were over 400,000 sewage discharges, totalling over 3 million hours. It is the government’s strong view that this is unacceptable.

Tackling storm overflows in England is a government priority. It is an issue which has received significant public attention and the government is firmly committed to a step change on action to protect public health and the environment from storm overflow discharges. We intend to produce a Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan by September 2022, as required by the Environment Act 2021, to outline our vision. This will set clear and enforceable targets that the water industry must meet. This consultation seeks views on the targets and other core elements of the Plan in advance of its publication. 

Why your views matter

This is an opportunity to influence the largest programme to tackle storm sewage discharges in history. We are seeking your views to help shape the targets that water companies must achieve to significantly reduce their reliance on storm overflows, which will later form part of the Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan.

What happens next

The consultation closed on 12th May and responses have been collated and analysed. The Government Response to this consultation was published on 26th August, alongside the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan. Both documents are now available online.


  • Environmental campaigners
  • Animal welfare campaigners
  • All Marine Users
  • Coastal local authorities
  • Coastal Management sector
  • Ports and Harbour Authorities and Estuaries
  • Water/water Industry sector
  • Angling Organisations and Trade
  • Fishing Focus individual recipients
  • Environmental professional services
  • Commercial Fisheries Organisations
  • Fisheries Producer Organisations
  • Local Authorities
  • Non-Government Organisation
  • Member of the General Public
  • Walkers
  • Fishermen
  • Water suppliers
  • Leisure industry
  • Tourism industry
  • Environmental Health Officers
  • Beach Users
  • Stakeholders


  • Biodiversity
  • Plants
  • Animals
  • Green infrastructure
  • Sustainable development
  • Flooding
  • Marine
  • Shellfish
  • Water quality
  • Bathing waters
  • Sewerage
  • Local environments
  • Inland waterways
  • Marine Conservation
  • Consultations
  • Impact Assessments
  • DEFRA Policy
  • Marine fisheries
  • Nitrates and watercourses
  • Shellfish
  • Inland waterways