What are we doing?

Over the last 20 years we have spent £1bn improving the region’s bathing waters and we plan to invest a further £250m between 2015 and 2020 to reduce our impact on the sea, which the Environment Agency estimates as being 30 per cent of the pollution problem.

Here is a selection of ongoing, and recently completed, projects that will help to further improve the region’s bathing waters:

Recently completed projects:


In the Preston area £160m of improvement schemes to clean the River Ribble and bathing waters around the Fylde coast came on line in time for the start of the 2014 bathing season.

Preston dry well - part of our investment

A 3.5km tunnel was built through Preston city centre and giant storm storage tanks were built at Penwortham. This project which commenced in 2008 and was delivered in March 2014 was the most significant improvement scheme for the bathing waters and shellfish beds around the Fylde Coast.  

Further improvement work has been completed at Garstang, Blackburn, Walton Le Dale and Croston wastewater treatment works to improve both shellfish and bathing waters around the Ribble Estuary and Fylde Coast.


Four storage tanks costing £18million were built at Roose, near Barrow, to hold rainwater during storms, preventing pollution of the sea and improving bathing waters at Walney Island.


We’ve invested £18million building storage tanks the size of Olympic swimming pools in central Lancaster to reduce storm water spills into the River Lune, improving beaches at Morecambe.   Upgrades are also complete at Lancaster Wastewater Treatment Works where we can now treat more stormwater which previously spilled into the river in storm conditions. Work started in March 2013 and was completed in March 2015.

Wyre and Fleetwood

Our work continues across the Fylde Peninsula and two more schemes have been completed at Poulton and Fleetwood at a cost of £30m. The schemes involved building some 22,000 cubic metres of extra storage to reduce storm spills into the River Wyre and along the Fylde coast. Delivered in August 2014 and March 2015, both schemes were up and running for the 2015 bathing season.

** NEW FOR 2016 **

Our work has continued since the end of last year’s bathing season, and these schemes are now up and running for May 2016.


Allonby tank

Our £4.5 million project at Allonby wastewater treatment works is now up and running, in time for the 2016 bathing season. We’ve increased the capacity of the plant by building additional treatment units which will significantly reduce the number of storm spills in severe weather. The project started construction in April 2015 and was completed in April 2016.


A new 12,400 cubic metre storage tank has just been completed at Anchorsholme Park in North Blackpool and this will be providing additional storm water storage during the 2016 bathing season, helping reduce storm spills on the Fylde Coast.

Harrowside Outfall (part of the Blackpool South Strategy)

Harrowside Outfall

We have completed the first stage of the Blackpool South Strategy with the replacement and enhancement last summer of our outfall off the Blackpool coastline in front of Blackpool Pleasure Beach. This new longer outfall pipe will provide greater capacity for the removal of storm water (separated during stage 2 of the strategy) and see existing storm discharges now released safely one kilometre out to sea. The increased dilution will help improve bathing water quality during periods of storm spills from our existing Lennox Gate pumping station.

Contaminated surface water (rainwater drainage) investigations

We’ve just completed an investigation programme which involved surveying a total of 8,500 properties, to help identify the cause of contaminated surface waters that can affect bathing water quality.   The surveys identified 177 properties that were ‘misconnected’ - in other words where their foul drainage system was incorrectly connected to the surface water drainage system which should only carry rainwater.  We worked with the householders to make them aware of the problems and the action they needed to take.

Ongoing projects:

Investment work continues along the Fylde Coast and we are continuing with the second phase of work at Anchorsholme.  We are increasing the length of the outfall from Anchorsholme pumping station which will take storm flows far enough out to sea to prevent it affecting bathing water quality. We will be using our coastal model to assess this and discussing the plans with the Environment Agency and other environmental bodies. You can find out more about the project here.

Blackpool South Strategy
Within the South Blackpool area we are working with local authorities, developers and the Environment Agency to separate large volumes of surface water and groundwater away from the combined sewer system. This cleaner storm water will then be redirected to watercourses or straight to sea. By removing these historic drainage flows it will free up capacity in the Fylde sewers and reduce the likelihood of intermittent storm spills. The first stage of this work, the Harrowside outfall pipe, was installed in summer 2015. The contract for the second stage, involving the surface water separation and construction of a small stormwater storage tank, has now been awarded and the work will be carried out over the next two years (by 2018).

To improve bathing waters at Morecambe Bay we are planning a new pumped sewer pipe running from Schola Green in Morecambe to our wastewater treatment works in the Middleton Industrial Estate. We are also upgrading this plant to increase its capacity and we will install a new outfall pipe. We have carried out extensive surveys over the last few months and this data is now being analysed to determine the best route for the new outfall pipe. We will be organising more customer exhibitions and events to let people know when we have more details.

A public exhibition was held on Thursday 26 January at Morecambe Cricket Club where we communicated our plans. Find information from the exhibition here.

Coastal Modelling Project
We are currently working on a £4.4m study which will help us understand in the greatest detail ever how our wastewater network can affect bathing water quality.
We have spent millions of pounds over the past 30 years reducing the impact of our sewers on bathing water quality, tackling the big issues first. Now, with our wastewater network 30 per cent of the problem, we are focusing on the smaller issues and working out how we can solve them.
Last summer we took thousands of samples along the entire North West coastline. These samples are being used by computer modelling experts to identify where our sewers could be improved to prevent pollution during heavy rain.

River Ribble and Wyre Tidal project
As well as improving United Utilities assets we are now also working with the Ribble Rivers Trust, Natural England and the National Farmers Union to better understand the other sources of pollution which have an impact on bathing water quality across the Fylde Peninsula area. In particular the project aims to understand how pollution is coming down the Ribble and Wyre estuaries from agricultural and other private sources.
The project is attracting significant interest from the farming communities and the Rivers Trusts will start to roll out farming interventions over the next two years using funding from United Utilities and other matched funding. 

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