Investing to protect Dorset's brilliant beaches

Bournemouth's outstanding beaches are benefiting from more than £30 million of investment to tackle storm overflows and treat more sewage

Wessex Water has started work to expand the storage capacity of its water recycling centre at Holdenhurst by 40%, ensuring it can meet the sewage treatment needs of a growing population, and the company has re-lined a mile of pipework in Dorset alone this summer to further protect the environment.

Water quality at Dorset’s beaches is assessed by the Environment Agency and most are rated ‘Excellent’ – including Bournemouth Pier, Durley Chine and Alum Chine – while storm overflow discharges halved near designated bathing sites in 2022.

The latest investment is part of Wessex Water’s commitment to reduce overflow discharges and minimise the environmental impact of its sewage treatment processes, with £1.4 billion being spent between 2020 and 2025 overall on water and sewerage improvements.

The Holdenhurst project is also removing more phosphorus and other nutrients from wastewater.

Schemes to build a new pipeline on the Jurassic Coast at West Bexington and separate rainwater from sewers around the iconic Portland Bill lighthouse have already been completed this year.

Meanwhile in Lytchett Matravers, near Poole, work is about to start on a wetland next to a sewage pumping station. The first of its kind in Dorset, this will provide natural wastewater treatment before it is safely returned to the Poole Harbour catchment.

Matt Wheeldon, Wessex Water’s Director of Infrastructure Development, said: “Although storm overflows are licensed by the Environment Agency to protect properties from flooding and discharge mostly rainwater, we’re committed to reducing how often they operate and are investing more than £3 million every month on schemes to improve them.

“Subject to approval from our regulators, we have plans to more than double the level of investment and deliver more nature-based solutions such as wetlands and reed beds that help to reduce our carbon impacts and minimise bill rises for customers – as well as improving water quality nearby.

“We would love to stop all storm overflow discharges immediately but unfortunately there is no quick fix. So we’re prioritising overflows that discharge to environmentally sensitive areas and bathing waters.”

As coastal and river water quality is affected by numerous sources, including wildlife and agriculture, Wessex Water has developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) app.

Real-time monitoring at Bournemouth and Boscombe will provide a better understanding of current water quality status, allowing people to make more informed decisions when using bathing waters for recreational use.

Wessex Water was the first UK company to publish data on storm overflow operations at bathing waters and other recreational areas 365 days a year, and it provides this information to councils and Surfers Against Sewage. Visit