Ofwat launches investigation following claims water companies broke the law
Following reports about widespread unpermitted releases of sewage into the environment by water and wastewater companies, Ofwat yesterday launched an investigation to establish whether companies are complying with their statutory and licence obligations.
New information, and analysis by the Environment Agency, suggests that water and wastewater companies may have released sewage into rivers and waterways when they were not legally allowed to do so. Ofwat’s interim Chief Executive has written to companies to investigate the extent of any non-compliance and why it has happened.
Ofwat has also asked Boards of water companies to explain how environmental performance and compliance with obligations has been taken into account when deciding on paying out dividends and executive bonuses.
While the Environment Agency is investigating potential breaches of environmental law, Ofwat is looking at companies’ compliance with their statutory duty to provide a wastewater treatment system, along with the management and corporate behaviours of water companies.
Interim Chief Executive, David Black, yesterday said:
“Back in the summer, I wrote to companies setting out the need to improve performance on the use of storm overflows. I haven’t seen enough to suggest that message was heard or heeded, and this new information suggests there may have been very serious failings by water companies in treating wastewater.
“We will find out what company Boards knew and when, and if there has been management failure or misreporting of data to us and to the public. If we find there has been, we will use all of our powers to hold companies to account.”
Ofwat has told companies to:
- Provide full disclosure on the scale of any illegal releases of sewage,
- Explain what caused them,
- Explain how they monitor compliance with their obligations including their system of management and internal controls,
- Set out what role the Board plays in scrutinising and monitoring these actions,
- Describe how Boards have approached dividends and remuneration decisions in the context of environmental performance, and
- Set out companies’ plans and timelines to address and remedy any problems uncovered.
Ofwat’s enforcement powers can see the regulator fine companies up to 10% of their turnover.
Notes to Editors:
- The joint announcement between the Environment Agency, Ofwat and Defra is on our website
- The letter from David Black to water companies is on our website
Latest News from
Paying fair: Ofwat calls on water companies to support customers struggling to pay25/05/2022 13:20:00
Ofwat has today published new guidelines for water companies to help household customers across England and Wales pay bills, get help and repay debts.
Sewer flooding misery for customers: call for urgent action from wastewater companies19/05/2022 15:15:15
People who have their homes flooded with sewage are frequently being let down by wastewater companies, whose response can leave customers facing long-term distress.
Regulators join forces to StreamLine advice for water innovators19/05/2022 12:05:00
The Drinking Water Inspectorate, Ofwat and the Environment Agency yesterday launched ‘StreamLine’ – a new joint service to improve advice and slash response times for water innovators.
Green water resource solutions gain Ofwat approval to continue development 17 May 202218/05/2022 10:05:00
Ofwat yesterday confirmed it will continue to provide ring-fenced funding for further investigations into four strategic regional water resource solutions in England. These proposed solutions could provide long-term, resilient water supplies to drier parts of the country.
Customers struggling to pay household bills are more likely to experience poor wellbeing16/05/2022 09:33:00
New research published recently shows that just over half of water bill payers believe they will struggle to pay a utility bill over the coming year, rising to 7 in 10 if there are children in the household.
Customers struggling to pay household bills are more likely to experience poor wellbeing12/05/2022 15:10:00
New research published today shows that just over half of water bill payers believe they will struggle to pay a utility bill over the coming year, rising to 7 in 10 if there are children in the household. A third of those who expect their financial situation to get a lot worse in the next year report feeling depressed.
Innovations to improve water efficiency, stop leaks and increase carbon capture win big in Ofwat’s Water Breakthrough Challenge29/04/2022 10:15:00
Innovative projects that reduce leakage, improve household water efficiency and turn carbon dioxide into useful products like paint and fertiliser, have been named winners of the second Water Breakthrough Challenge, Transform Stream.
Ofwat announces new permanent Chief Executive21/04/2022 13:15:00
Ofwat has today announced the appointment of David Black as its permanent Chief Executive, following an open recruitment process.
Ofwat calling on Space, Fintech and Digital sectors to have their say in new Innovation Fund consultation07/04/2022 13:15:00
Following a year-long pilot that has seen more than £43m awarded to cutting-edge innovation in the water sector, Ofwat – the water regulator for England and Wales – is launching a consultation to seek views about how to continue this momentum.