Thames Water Criticised In Environment Report

10 July 2019, 09:09 | Updated: 10 July 2019, 09:10

Thames Water

The Environment Agency has criticised Thames Water in its annual report.

It said it failed to show robust plans to maintain secure supplies - with the company remaining on three stars for performance out of four.

Thames Water says it 'had no pollution incidents in the most serious category for the first time in a decade last year' and 'increasing use of digital technology will help drive a further step change in reductions'.

The agency says most water companies in England are likely to fail to meet 2020 pollution targets.

The Environment Agency has said serious pollution incidents in England increased to 56 last year from 52 in 2017 and overall water company performance has deteriorated, reversing the trend of gradual improvement in the sector since 2011.

Just one of the nine major water and sewage companies in England - Northumbrian Water - is performing at the level expected, achieving the highest four star rating.

Anglian Water and Thames Water remained on three stars and Southern Water, South West Water and Yorkshire Water achieved just two stars for their "unacceptable level of performance".

The agency's chairwoman, Emma Howard Boyd, who has previously warned water companies they would face a tougher regulatory approach with increasing inspections, pledged to look at financial penalties "given fines are currently only a fraction of turnover".

Writing in the report's foreword, she said: "Companies should be reflecting on their environmental performance and long-term resilience, if this is poor they should be asking themselves whether dividends are justifiable."

The agency's executive director of operations, Dr Toby Willison, said: 

"Water companies need to clean up their act. People expect water companies to improve the environment, not pollute rivers, and ensure secure supplies of water.

"With only one exception, none of the companies are performing at the level we wish to see, the country expects and the environment needs. We will continue to challenge CEOs to improve company performance and we will take strong and appropriate enforcement action.

"Companies performing well have a positive ripple effect on the natural environment and communities in their regions. We want all water companies to meet the expectation of their customers, the needs of environment and learn from the best practice that the leading company is demonstrating."

Consumer Council for Water chairman Rob Light said: 

"People have a growing concern for the environment and will feel badly let down that the majority of water and sewerage companies in England have failed to be good stewards of our waterways and the life that depends on them.

"Customers will back any move that hits companies much harder in the pocket when they flout their responsibilities to the environment - it's clear the existing deterrents are not strong enough."

A Thames Water statement said:

"We had no pollution incidents in the most serious category for the first time in a decade last year. Our overall pollutions performance for 2018 was broadly in line with 2017, with current pollution levels being 46 per cent lower than five years ago. Our increasing use of digital technology to create a more intelligent network and enable more proactive maintenance and repair will help drive a further step change in reductions."