What was the environmental performance of UK Water and Sewerage Companies in 2018

In its Annual Performance Report for 2018, the Environment Agency has urged water companies to clean up their act after a new report described their efforts to protect the environment as ‘simply unacceptable’.

Within the United Kingdom, there are nine water and sewerage companies that operate wholly or mainly in England, providing clean (drinking) water and waste water (sewerage) services. It should be noted that there are an additional 10 water-only companies providing only drinking water, and a number of small ‘inset’ companies providing drinking and sewerage services on a localised basis, which are not covered by this report.

As the environmental regulator, the Environment Agency works with these water companies to minimise the impact that their assets and activities have on the environment through agreed investment in environmental controls through the Assets Management Programme – Environmental Programme in conjunction with Ofwat (the UK economic regulator for the water sector), environmental permitting, controls of the spread of sewerage on agricultural land & the management of environmental pollution incidents.

The Environment Agency monitors their environmental performance throughout the year against important objectives including reducing pollution incidents, complying with permits and delivering environmental improvement schemes and publish an annual assessment of their performance.

The water and sewerage companies covered in the performance report are:

Anglian Water
Northumbrian Water
Severn Trent Water
Southern Water
South West Water
Thames Water
United Utilities
Wessex Water
Yorkshire Water

The summary table (page 6) of the Report shows the “levels of performance close to-” (Amber) and “significantly below the target” (Red) with specific reference to the Pollution Incidents, Serious Pollution Incidents and Discharge Permit Compliance.

Given the recent (July 2019), environmental fines for Thames Water & the environmental fines and rebates for Southern Water, the water industry has a lot to even catch-up. As it stands in the Report, the Environment Agency notes:

Overall in 2018, water company performance has deteriorated compared with 2017. This reverses the trend of gradual improvement for the sector since the Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) was first introduced in 2011. The sector has some way to go to meet the performance expectations for 2015 to 2020 which the Environment Agency set out in 2013

Water and Sewerage Companies’ Performance Report 2019

You can’t help but wonder why the Environmental Management Systems (EMS based on ISO 14001:2015), which each company has in-place is not able to correct their compliance issues. Could it be a weakness in the EMS itself, the infrastructure or not fully taken up by the management of the Water Companies.

A copy of the Water and Sewerage Companies’ Performance Report 2019 covering their performance in 2018 can be downloaded here with previous performance reports available for: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.

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