The Environment Agency has today (Thursday, July 14) released its annual report on the environmental performance of England’s nine water and sewerage companies.

The report shows that overall in 2021, the performance of the companies fell to the lowest level seen under the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA),.

Measured against a four-star rating, most of the companies’ performance declined.

The Environment Agency said that despite continuing enforcement action against those breaching environmental laws, water companies remain undeterred by the penalties currently being issued by the courts.

Southern Water and South West Water were given a one-star rating, while four companies were rated two-stars - meaning they require significant improvement.

Northumbrian Water, Severn Trent Water and United Utilities performed more positively and maintained four-stars.

The latest EPA report shows:

  • Seven water companies had an increase in serious incidents compared to 2020. In total there were 62 serious incidents for 2021 – the highest since 2013;
  • There has also been no overall improvement for several years in total incident numbers or compliance with conditions for discharging treated wastewater.

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said:

“It’s appalling that water companies’ performance on pollution has hit a new low.

"Water quality won’t improve until water companies get a grip on their operational performance.

"For years people have seen executives and investors handsomely rewarded while the environment pays the price.

“Company directors let this happen. We plan to make it too painful for them to continue like this.

"The amount a company can be fined for environmental crimes is unlimited but fines currently handed down by the courts often amount to less than a chief executive’s salary.

"We need courts to impose much higher fines. Investors should no longer see England’s water monopolies as a one-way bet.”