United Utilities Water Limited has been fined £800,000 after illegally abstracting 22 billion litres of water from boreholes in Lancashire.

The company was fined at Warrington Magistrates Court following a prosecution by the Environment Agency.

The over abstraction has been reported to have caused additional stress on the environment during a period of very dry weather in 2018, and led to a significant decline in the water level available in the Fylde Aquifer.

The Environment Agency said the aquifer, which is an underground water storage area that facilitates healthy river flows, will take years to recover.

The case was brought after an investigation by the Environment Agency revealed that United Utilities had taken more water than allowed by five of their abstraction licences in the in the Franklaw and Broughton Borehole Complex.

The Environment Agency said the amount of water taken by the company is equivalent to the amount needed to fill 8,800 Olympic swimming pools.

Environment Agency director for Lancashire, Carol Holt, said: “Our priority is to ensure clean and plentiful water for people, the economy and the environment in England and we welcome today’s sentencing which exposes unacceptable practices from United Utilities Water Limited over a prolonged period of time.

“While water companies are allowed to abstract water from the environment, over abstraction, especially during times of prolonged dry weather, has damaging impacts to our environment.”

Holt said the agency will continue to strive for a better water sector across the country to protect its water supplies now and for the future.

“We are transforming our approach to regulation, holding the water industry to account and working with water companies such as United Utilities Water Limited to help them improve.”

Water Minister Rebecca Pow said: “It is absolutely right that companies that harm our environment are held to account by the courts, as has happened with United Utilities today.

“Through our plan for water we are driving forward work to improve our water system and deliver the change people want to see – including tougher enforcement, tighter regulation of water companies and increased investment.”