Last edited 18 Jul 2019

Environmental performance of the water and sewerage companies

Environmental performance of the water and sewerage companies in 2018.png

On 10 July 2019 the Environment Agency (EA) published Environmental performance of the water and sewerage companies, a report suggesting that water companies efforts to protect the environment were ‘simply unacceptable’ with only 1 of them performing at the level expected.

The annual report rates each of the 9 water and sewerage companies in England as green, amber or red on a range of measures including pollution, supply resilience, and complying with permits.

The report reveals that water company performance has deteriorated, reversing the gradual improvement that had been seen in since the rating system began in 2011. Serious pollution incidents have also increased in 2018, causing damage to rivers and wildlife.

Northumbrian Water was the only company to achieve the highest 4 star rating. The EA said this improvement should be applauded and had only been possible with focus from the top of the organisation and ongoing effort from operational teams.

Other findings included:

  • Severn Trent Water, United Utilities and Wessex Water dropped from 4 stars to 3 stars.
  • Anglian Water and Thames Water remained on 3 stars.
  • Southern Water, South West Water and Yorkshire Water were only given 2 stars, described as an ‘unacceptable level of performance.’
  • South West Water has consistently demonstrated unacceptable performance and a red rating for pollution incidents.
  • Southern Water and Thames Water failed to demonstrate they have robust enough plans to maintain secure water supplies.
  • Most water companies look set to fail to meet 2020 pollution targets.

Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd, said they will continue to work with Ofwat to look at financial penalties to drive better environmental performance and that companies should be reflecting on their environmental performance and long-term resilience - if this is poor they should be asking themselves whether dividends are justifiable.

Executive Director of Operations Dr Toby Willison said: “Water companies need to clean up their act. People expect water companies to improve the environment, not pollute rivers and ensure secure supplies of water. With only one exception, none of the companies are performing at the level we wish to see, the country expects and the environment needs. We will continue to challenge CEOs to improve company performance and we will take strong and appropriate enforcement action. Companies performing well have a positive ripple effect on the natural environment and communities in their regions. We want all water companies to meet the expectation of their customers, the needs of environment and learn from the best practice that the leading company is demonstrating.”

The full report is available at: Environmental performance of the water and sewerage companies.

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