South West Water is launching a new website to provide updates on sewage spills at beaches after being criticised for how often it allows these spills to happen.
An interactive map from the water company will show sewage releases around the coast and is designed to share information about the region’s bathing beaches, location and performance of storm overflows. It will also include information on the company’s plans to improve water quality.
Member of parliament for East Devon Simon Jupp said South West Water still needed to "clean up their act and our water”.
He added that people in the South West pay the "highest water bills in the country" yet “have a one-star rated water company which was fined £13 million as a result of the government’s new laws.”
South West Water (SWW) said the company wants to be “really open" with its customers and its website will be a "one-stop shop" for all information about its network.
Laura Flowerdew, chief customer officer for SWW, said: "The site will give information on how our network is impacting bathing water across our designated bathing waters in the region and, importantly, it also shows what we’re doing to improve the performance of our network by investing across all out bathing waters over the coming years.
“We’re really excited to be launching the website to give better information to customers and to be really open and transparent about how our waste water network operates.”
It comes after the government made it mandatory for all water companies to provide public data about the frequency and duration of storm overflow discharges in near real time by 2025.
‘It’s not enough’
Mr Jupp told BBC News real improvement would only come when SWW was able to share its real-time data from storm overflows. This is expected later this year.
He said: “I want to see South West Water launching their real-time information which will really help the public decide what they want to do, as quickly as possible."
The MP did acknowledge that what is being launched is a “good step forward because it clarifies all the data and also looks back at historical data from the last three years” but he said “it’s not enough.”
Izzy Ross, campaigns manager for environmental charity Surfers Against Sewage, applauded water firms for being more transparent about sewage discharge but said it did not solve the problem.
Ms Ross told BBC News: "We need to actually see a reduction and eventually an end to sewage discharges from these sewage overflow pipes."
Ms Flowerdew said the performance of SWW was "really improving" with the company reducing its use of storm overflows by 50% over the bathing season in 2022, but added there is "still more to do".
She said: "We know customers really care about bathing waters across the region and we also really care about the environment so it’s absolutely critical that we tell our side of the story and we show what we’re doing to reduce the use of storm overflows."