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Thursday 25 January: Water refill network and new Sheffield flood defence opens

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A new national water refill network to tackle plastic waste

Image shows a person filling up a drinks bottle with water
A bottle refill station (Credit: Adrian Sheratt/Water UK)

The government is supporting the launch of a new national water refill network to enable people to refill water bottles for free at tens of thousands of shops, cafes, businesses and water fountains across England.

The initiative has secured widespread positive coverage today from media outlets including the BBC , Sky News, the I, the Mail, the Telegraph, the Express, the Mirror, the Guardian, the Times and the Sun.

An interview with Minister Coffey also ran on Sky’s morning bulletin and a quote in her name is covered by the I.

During Defra's Parliamentary Questions today, the Secretary of State for the Environment welcomed the announcement and said that it was 'absolutely right' that a network of public water refill stations was created.

Water UK has launched the scheme which aims to prevent the use of tens of millions of disposable plastic water bottles a year, as part of efforts to curb the "harmful tide of plastic waste" on land and in the seas.

Members of the public will be able to use an app on their phone to find the nearest refill point or look out for a special sign in shop windows as the nationwide scheme is rolled out.

This builds on work the government is already doing to reduce plastic waste: we are the first country in Europe to ban microbeads and our 25 year environment plan set out our plans to extend the 5p plastic bag charge, improve recycling rates and explore plastic free aisles in supermarkets.

Read the full Water UK press release here.

Environment Minister, Thérèse Coffey said:

The world has woken up to the consequences of a disposable society and it is excellent to see the water industry leading by example with their new refill scheme which has already secured the backing of Costa Coffee and Premier Inn.

I have written to retailers, coffee shops and transport hubs across England asking them to provide free water refills to customers, and I’m delighted that many chains including Starbucks and Pret have already given this commitment to customers.

True change requires a collective effort and I urge everyone to take advantage of the many water refill points that will be available.

£21 million Sheffield flood defence to protect homes and businesses is completed

Image shows Sheffield's new flood defence wall
Sheffield's new flood defence wall

A £21 million flood defence scheme to better protect hundreds of businesses in Sheffield’s Lower Don Valley has opened today.  

The Lower Don Valley area is second only to the city centre for economic importance to Sheffield. The new flood alleviation scheme will benefit more than 500 businesses and safeguard around five thousand jobs, key roads in and out of the city and homes along a five mile stretch of the River Don.

New ‘hard defences’ have been installed along an 8km stretch of the river to raise flood defence levels comprising new gravity walls, installation of flood gates and the fitting of more than 300 flap valves to pipes and openings which discharge to the river.

Sir James Bevan, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said: “Flooding has devastating costs for people and businesses – and we know this has been the case for the people of Sheffield. This fantastic scheme will not only benefit homes and businesses in the city but it will also safeguard thousands of jobs due to the increased level of protection it provides. It’s been great to see Sheffield City Council and the Environment Agency working together in partnership to better protect the Lower Don Valley.”

It is the first scheme of its kind in the UK to have business owners contributing to the costs of the flood protection through the creation of a formal Business Improvement District - a business led partnership created to bring additional services to local businesses. The Environment Agency and Defra contributed £19.3 million towards the total capital cost (£20.7 million), with local businesses contributing £1.4 million.

Floods Minister, Thérèse Coffey said:

This partnership funding model showcases the way industry can work with Government to provide wider benefits to the community with local business investment in this project. The Sheffield Lower Don Valley scheme is protecting jobs, businesses and vital infrastructure which the whole city can be very proud of. 

In Yorkshire, the Government is investing £430 million over the next four years to reduce the flood risk to a further 63,000 homes and businesses.

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