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UK MP echoes ICE’s calls for water sector reform

19 July 2023

ICE recommendations would help tackle flooding and eliminate sewage overflows, argued MP Natalie Elphicke.

UK MP echoes ICE’s calls for water sector reform
Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, cited expert advice from the ICE. Image credit: UK Parliament (licensed under CC BY 3.0..)

UK MP Natalie Elphicke cited the ICE’s expert recommendations on water sector reform in a recent parliamentary debate on environmental protections.

The Conservative MP for Dover responded to a motion that would give environmental regulators stronger powers to penalise companies that damage the environment.

While recognising the aim to make pollution more costly than compliance, Elphicke expressed concern about extending regulator powers without fundamental reform of water regulation.

What did she say?

Elphicke argued that "good intention may not translate into effective delivery".

"What matters to our constituents is what works, and what works is technical solutions to technical problems," she said.

"That has been my experience on the ground, and it is also the expert advice on this issue from the Institution of Civil Engineers.

"It has advised that the water regulatory framework needs updating, that there needs to be better testing and assessment of the nature-based solutions, and that nature-based solutions need to be better incorporated into the planning system for the built environment."


The debate on environmental protection took place on 18 July 2023.

Why is this important?

The UK uses about 14 billion litres of water per day and will need 4 billion more by 2050.

In the same timeframe, the country will also need 30 more reservoirs to secure adequate drought resilience.

So, the UK’s water and wastewater infrastructure will face enormous challenges over the coming decades. And the current regulatory model, developed over 30 years ago, hasn’t evolved at the required pace.

Last month, in an ICE-hosted roundtable with Environmental Audit Committee chair Philip Dunne MP, attendees discussed the need for regulatory reform, longer-term planning and investment, and nature-based solutions to deliver water infrastructure that’s fit for purpose.

An ICE civil engineering insights paper published yesterday also makes recommendations for reducing excessive sewer overflows.

In 2022, an average of 825 overflows per day discharged huge amounts of raw sewage into the UK’s rivers and seas.

The ICE’s impartial expert advice to policymakers aims to influence discussion at all levels of government.

By informing parliamentary debate, drawing upon the engineering knowledge of our global membership, the ICE helps ministers make informed decisions that will deliver the cleaner, greener water infrastructure the public needs.

Civil engineering insights into combined sewer
overflows (CSOs)

Content type: Insights paper

Author: David Hawkes, ICE head of policy

  • Ben Gosling, speechwriter and policy content manager at ICE