Severn Trent Water is gearing up to start a massive £2.3 billion investment programme to improve the quality of drinking water and increase protection for rivers and streams across the region.

The five-year scheme - which will top £1 million a day - will begin in April and according to the water firm will be worth more than £735 to each household in its area.

Birmingham-based Severn Trent Water says the programme will improve the quality, taste and appearance of drinking water, offer further protection to rives and streams and prevent sewer flooding.

It added that the average home will pay the equivalent of 69p a day for safe supplies of tap water and the removal and cleaning of waste water to protect the environment.

Jonathan Bailey, Severn Trent Water's director of customer relations, said: "Whilst prices have risen to fund this investment programme the average household bill in the Midlands will still be among the best value in the country, at around £252 for the year.

"At 69p a day - about the price of a family's daily milk - we believe that water bills represent good value for money: for all the top-quality water you need, and to have it taken away again and cleaned to the highest standards before returning to the environment."

He added: "Above all, the prices we charge need to ensure we can continue to invest in our water pipes, sewers, and water and sewage treatment works so our customers will see the benefits.

"These include improvements in the taste and appearance of their tap water and reduced sewer flooding.

"We've already invested £1.50 for every £1 profit we've made since 1990 to achieve the record levels of quality and service our customers now get.

"We all know how hard it can be simply keeping you home or car in good working order - we have to do a similar job but on a massive scale as parts of our system and equipment wear out, need maintenance or replacing."

The programme includes £355 million earmarked for the West Midlands and Black Country, including more than £9 million on tackling nitrates in drinking water; more than £7 million on known sewer-flooding problems over 19 km of pipe, and more than £130 million to improve sewage works at Minworth, Willenhall and Barnhurst.

Severn Trent Water said it would also be spending £55 million to maintain the region's sewage works, including £33 million at Minworth and £10 million at Coleshill.

Another £37 million will be spent on renewing and maintaining the water mains network, while nearly £20 million will be used to maintain water treatment works.

"By 2005 we'll have invested more than £2,000 since 1989 for every home we serve, with bills still among the lowest in the country.

"Meanwhile, service levels for customers have reached record highs," said Mr Bailey.