Water firm admits customers face extra £91 a year on bills to pay for industry's clean-up pledge

A campaigner outside Anglian Water HQ
A clean water campaigner at a recent protest outside the Anglian Water HQ in Cambridgeshire Credit: ITV News Anglia

One of the UK's biggest water companies has admitted its customers could face an increase of £91 a year - including £12 to help pay for investment in sewerage infrastructure - on their bills.

Water companies in England have announced a £10bn plan to reduce the number of sewage discharges into rivers and seas, while apologising for the pollution.

The industry trade body, Water UK, said the money would be paid up front by investors but then recuperated from consumers by gradually raising their bills over decades.

Anglian Water’s head of public relations Regan Harris said its bill-payers in the east of England may be charged an additional £91 a year on average.

She said: “The initial investment will be put forward by our shareholders and the way we’re financed is that they put up that investment and Ofwat allows us to recover a proportion of that from bills.

“What we’re looking at is a fairly small increase of probably a few percent a year between now and 2030.”

Asked how much the rise might mean for customers, she said: “What we’re probably looking at is something in the order of about £1.75 a week for bills. (That is) 10-12% as a total between now and 2030.”

An increase of £1.75 per week would amount to £91 extra per year.

After the interview, Anglian Water clarified that only £12 of this relates to storm overflow upgrades.

A protest by the group Surfers Against Sewage Credit: PA Images

It comes just three weeks after the firm was fined over £2.6m for allowing sewage equivalent to three Olympic-sized swimming pools to flow into the North Sea.

Anglian Water pleaded guilty to discharging 7.5 million litres of sewage at Jaywick Water Recycling Centre in Essex between June and July 2018, the Environment Agency said.

The firm was ordered to pay a total penalty of £2,666,690.09 at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court - the biggest ever fine imposed for environmental offences in the East of England.

Anglian Water supplies 4.3 million people with water across the East of England. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/PA Images

Ofwat said water companies will submit their National Overflows Plan by 2 October which will include any bill increases for the period 2025-30.

The regulator will analyse the plans, giving a final announcement in December 2024, so any bill increases related to the storm overflows plan will not be felt until 2025.

A spokesperson said: “Water companies must explain how their proposals will be funded, the proposed impact this will have on bills and their expected return to shareholders and lenders.

“It is important that companies continue to engage clearly with the public on how this proposed investment will benefit communities and improve quality of life.”

There were 301,091 sewage spills in 2022 in England which amounted to 1.75 million hours of discharge, according to Environment Agency figures, though they do not include the volume of sewage.

Izzy Ross, campaigns manager at Surfers Against Sewage said: “Water companies have seemingly bared their souls and told us they’re going to change. But why should we trust them?

“They’ve overseen decades of mismanagement of our sewerage network, all the while siphoning off tens of billions to shareholders and paying the fat cats at the top huge pay and bonuses.

“And this new plan is no different with consumers set to foot the bill, again. We won’t stand for it.”

The campaigners are planning to protest on Saturday at 12 bathing locations across the UK