Skip to content

Water companies making excuses

  • by JW

“With the climate changing and more intense storms predicted, the frailties of our drainage system are being exposed more than ever.” [CCW: ‘the voice for water consumers’]


Two summers ago, the UK’s water companies were providing the excuse of climate change:

Alison Hoyle, Southern Water’s director of risk and compliance, said the company was injecting £1bn of investment into the environment over the next four years. She said: “We recognise there is a lot more to do… Such openness is key to the wider national debate so urgently needed to ensure the water industry plays its part in protecting the environment and securing a clean, safe water future for the UK in the context of climate change and population growth. Southern Water is committed to being part of this debate and showing how we can and have learned from the historic events of 2010-15.” Water industry in England failing on raw sewage pollution, Environment Agency finds | Environment | The Guardian

Yes, climate change is a growing factor:

So why do sewage spills appear to happen more often now? Water companies are presented with greater challenges from issues such as urbanisation and climate change. Urban water runoff is a leading cause for water quality problems. About 18% of water bodies in England were identified as being damaged by pollution from towns, cities and transport in 2020. Climate change also contributes to the problem as increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events raise the risk of flooding. Excessive amounts of rainwater entering sewers can cause sewage spills. According to data from The Environment Agency, sewage was dumped into the ocean and rivers around the UK more than 770,000 times over the course of 2020 and 2021 – the equivalent of almost 6 million hours. Sewage overflows could also result in new contaminants such as PFAS chemicals and pharmaceutical residues building up in the environment. UK water companies – from hero to zero | WHEB

But it seems that ‘climate change’ is being used more as an excuse.

When it comes to compensating those who have been the victims of sewage overflows, water companies have systematically blamed ‘climate change’: Climate change is no excuse not to compensate repeat sewer flooding victims – CCW

As have the regulators:  The Environment Agency shouldn’t use climate change as an excuse for its own incompetence

Despite producing reams of reports, nothing seems to happen: Climate change – Ofwat

Indeed, all those involved appear to be very good at making excuses – blaming too much or too little rain, rather than addressing woefully inadequate infrastructure.

Last summer, water companies were accused of “vigorous excuse mongering”: Feargal Sharkey called out the industry for failing to clean up their act while millions of people experience hosepipe bans amid a drought. Water firms’ ‘excuses just don’t wash’ | UK | News |

Now, though, the Environment Agency does seem to be trying to hold the industry to account: Water companies are ‘wilfully misleading’ the public over sewage claims, watchdog says – The Big Issue

Although some would say it’s still nearly not enough: Opposition parties dismiss ‘pointless’ water company proposals | The Independent