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‘Rapid action’ needed as latest report reveals new low for water companies

Swim England chief executive, Jane Nickerson, says ‘rapid action’ is needed after the findings of the Environment Agency’s latest report.

The ‘Water and sewerage companies in England: environmental performance report’ for 2021 has recently been published and the findings make for grim reading for everyone who cares about the cleanliness and health of the nation’s waterways – but sadly are not surprising.

The report revealed that:

  • Serious pollution incidents increased to 62, the highest since 2013 – six of the nine water companies performed significantly below target for this Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) metric.
  • Total pollution incidents (category 1 to 3) decreased slightly to 1,883 but show no trend for improvement since 2015 – Southern Water and South West Water continued to perform significantly below target for this metric.

The chairperson of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “In 2021, the environmental performance of England’s nine water and sewerage companies was the worst we have seen for years.

“Measured against our four-star rating, most of them went the wrong way – down. Four companies [Anglian, Thames, Wessex, and Yorkshire Water] were rated only two stars, which means they require significant improvement.

“Two [Southern and South West Water] fell to one star, the bottom of our star ratings, meaning their performance were terrible across the board.”

Responding to the report, Swim England chief executive Jane Nickerson, said: “The findings show more clearly than ever what, sadly, we all know to be true – that far too much sewage is being dumped into our precious waterways.

“The public have repeatedly made their outrage clear and water companies and regulators need to get a grip on this issue, and fast.

“Some of the measures in the Environment Act offer cautious cause for hope for improvements, as does the latest Strategic Policy Statement to Ofwat which makes it clear that environmental improvements must be a priority.

“But that all counts for nothing unless we see rapid action by all water companies to reduce the amount of sewage and pollution they discharge into our rivers and waterways.”

To read the full report, click here.