Southern Water is one of 11 water companies which has been ordered to reduce customers’ bills because of missed targets on areas such as water supply interruptions, pollution incidents and internal sewer flooding.
Regulator Ofwat says across the 11 companies almost £150m is planned to be taken off customers’ bills in the next financial year.
Southern Water has to return some £28.3million to its customers.
The company’s pollution incidents have hot the headlines numerous times, including two incidents last year. The first was a release of wastewater from the emergency outfall at Foreness Point in June 2021 which affected ten isle beaches. Southern Water said the release was due to a lightning strike at the wastewater pumping station.
The second was a failure at the Broadstairs pumping station in October 2021 resulting in advice against bathing or entering the area below the high water mark at 14 of Thanet’s beaches following an unscreened wastewater release.
An Environment Agency investigation into the Southern Water releases last year is being carried out with Margate councillor Rob Yates signed up as a formal witness for any proceedings.
In a statement Ofwat said: “Not all water companies have significantly missed their targets. Better performers such as Severn Trent Water have exceeded their targets in areas like biodiversity and are able to recover more money from customers, whereas poorer performing companies such as Thames Water and Southern Water face a financial hit because of missed targets on water treatment works compliance, pollution incidents and internal sewer flooding across 2021/22 and will have to reduce customer bills accordingly. These decisions will impact customer bills in 2023-24.”
David Black, Ofwat CEO, said: “When it comes to delivering for their customers, too many water companies are falling short, and we are requiring them to return around £150m to their customers.
“We expect companies to improve their performance every year; where they fail to do so, we will hold them to account. The poorest performers, Southern Water and Thames Water, will have to return almost £80m to their customers. All water companies need to earn back the trust of customers and the public and we will continue to challenge the sector to improve.”
Following a recent meeting of water industry CEOs, hosted by new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Ranil Jayawardena, Southern Water has detailed its improvement progress and plans to government.
Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Gosden, wrote to Mr Jayawardena to highlight the company’s commitment to delivering significant change in the coming years.
Mr Gosden’s letter outlines changes being carried out.
He says: “Whilst I recognise that Southern Water has not always met expectations in recent years, I believe that we are now in a position to deliver significant change for our customers and the environment.
“We are investing £2 billion (c.£1,000 per household) over the current regulatory period, 2020-25, more than our regulatory allowance, to significantly improve our performance.”
Measures include pilot projects to reduce storm overflows, cutting leakage, currently 17%, this by half by 2050 and increasing the discount on social tariff for those struggling with rising costs to 45%.