A SENIOR manager at Southern Water has given a Petersfield crowd a wave of information on his company’s bid to reduce storm discharges.

People who listened to Joff Edevane’s recent talk at One Tree Books heard that storm overflows are nothing new and have taken place regularly for decades.

But the advent of new legislation in 2018 and increased environmental scrutiny has brought the practice into the public’s attention, often through social media.

Mr Edevane gave a 70-minute talk to around 25 people on why the practice takes place and the efforts being taken to reduce the practice.

He delved into The Clean Rivers & Seas Task Force created in 2021 to research and implement methods of reducing storm overflows, a prime cause of poor water quality in rivers and along the coasts.

The Pathfinder Delivery Lead for Wetlands & Harbours said companies need a permit from the Environment Agency to release storm overflows, with the duration and quality of each release being monitored.

Storm overflows usually take place during or after periods of heavy or persistent rainfall. Most excess water will sit in a storm tank before being gradually released into the system, but when it’s full it will overflow into the environment.

There are two overflow points in Petersfield – Chapel Street and at the wastewater treatment session – while Mr Edevane allayed concerns about the quality of releases, as the strength of waste water will be heavily diluted by rainfall.

He said: “The environmental impact should be minimal because of the dilution, but releases might happen more often with the weather getting more extreme.”

The audience heard Southern Water is in the middle of a five-year investment cycle with £7.8bn being poured into a host of schemes, like “greening” of streets, soakaways and reed wetlands, to capture excess water.

The timing of Mr Edevane’s talk was topical as it coincided with news that water bills are rising. He believes most people will accept a £5 increase, if they know the money is going towards environmental improvements, and said all the company’s investments is driven by customer bills.

However, the audience also got the impression the company is playing catch up for years of underinvestment and pandering to shareholders.

Calls for more reinvestment were made while it was also revealed that stormwater discharges out of manholes – like those at Woods Meadow play area – are not monitored.

The financing of the improvements was explained along with the role OFWAT plays in setting charges so investors get a reasonable rate of return.

It was not clear what is considered reasonable, or how they get that return, because Southern Water hasn’t paid dividends for several years.

The talk was the latest in series of non-political meetings organised by the Petersfield branch of the Liberal Democrats. The next on Wednesday, March 6, will be led by John Warnants, and will focus on Artificial Intelligence, The Good and The Bad.