Southern Water and South West Water have this morning been slammed over their environmental record, which the sector watchdog called “consistently unacceptable”.
According to the Environment Agency’s latest annual report into the UK’s water firms, no single company hit all the targets laid out for the 2015-2020 period.
Although pollution incidents declined for the second year in a row to the lowest number ever, the total number of incidents hit its second highest ever number since 2015.
For this metric, the Environment Agency said that Southern and South West had both performed “significantly below target”.
It was the second year in the row that Southern’s performance has been branded thus, and the 10th straight year for South West.
As a result of their consistent underperformance, both firms will meet with environment secretary George Eustice in the coming months.
Overall, both firms were given two star ratings for their efforts last year, the second lowest ranking.
For South West, consistent failure to improve has led Ofwat giving them a bespoke commitment to ensure they are aiming to achieve and maintain four-star status from 2023-2025.
Over half of serious incidents were also due to Anglian Water and Thames Water, the Environment Agency said.
The results come the week after Southern Water was sentenced to pay a record breaking £90m fine after pleading guilty in court to 6971 unpermitted pollution discharges.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said that the report made for “extremely disappointing reading”.
“Even the industry-leading water companies have more work to do, especially on the use of storm overflows.
“Getting the basics right is critical for water companies and then they need to go further in playing their part in achieving a higher level of ambition for our precious water environment.”
Susan Davy, South West Water’s Chief Executive, said: “We take our guardianship of the natural environment very seriously and want to do more. We are disappointed with aspects of our environmental performance for 2020 and with minor pollution incidents.
“We are pleased to say that so far in 2021, we have achieved 60 per cent lower than the figure reported today in the EPA report for the same period last year. We are investing in known hotspots to sustainably reduce pollutions year on year. We are confident in our plans to be a 4-star company and one of the best performing companies in the industry.
City A.M. has contacted Southern Water for comment.