Water firms' efforts to protect against pollution 'unacceptable'

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

Water companies are not doing enough to keep beaches and rivers free from pollution, a damning report reveals.

The Environment Agency said the firms are getting worse and the water company efforts to protect the environment are "simply unacceptable".

Just one of the nine water and sewage companies in England is performing at the level expected.

Most water companies look set to fail to meet 2020 pollution targets, it warns.

Serious pollution incidents causing damage to rivers and wildlife in England increased last year. Credit: PA

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.

The agency slapped South West Water with a red rating for pollution incidents for "consistently demonstrating unacceptable performance", while Southern Water and Thames Water failed to demonstrate they had robust plans to maintain secure water supplies.

The agency’s executive director of operations, Dr Toby Willison, said: "Water companies need to clean up their act."

A sample of contaminated water. Credit: PA

He continued: "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."

He continued: "Companies performing well have a positive ripple effect on the natural environment and communities in their regions."

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said companies must act to protect waters from serious pollution. Credit: PA

Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said: "This year’s assessment of environmental performance is disappointing, given the major progress which water companies have made over many years in improving the environment."

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: "Water companies have a responsibility to distribute our most precious natural resource, and must act as stewards of our environment.

"But today’s damning report by the Environment Agency shows all but one are failing to protect rivers, lakes and groundwater from serious pollution and the effects of climate change."

  • Surfers Against Sewage describe Environment Agency's report as damning