Ofwat has opened an enforcement case into South East Water to investigate whether it has failed to develop and maintain an efficient water supply system.
This announcement follows the regulator calling in the Board of South East Water before Ofwat’s Chair and Chief Executive to explain its performance over the last 18 months.
In the latest Water Company Performance Report, Ofwat categorised South East Water as ‘lagging behind’ and required it to publish a service commitment plan by the end of November to address several areas of underperformance, including supply interruptions.
South East Water is the current worst performer for water supply interruptions in England and Wales. In 2022-23 there was an average 3 hours, 2 minutes and 21 seconds lost per property compared with its performance commitment level of 5 minutes and 45 seconds.
David Black, Ofwat CEO said:
“Providing reliable water supplies is at the heart of a water company’s responsibilities. Too many customers have been failed too often by South East Water. That’s why we are now carrying out a thorough investigation into the company and its service to customers.
“We are clear that water companies must do more to regain public trust and it must start with better service. Where this does not happen, we will use all of our powers to ensure the sector delivers better value for both customers and the environment.”
Opening an investigation does not imply that Ofwat will conclude that there has been a breach or that the regulator will pursue formal enforcement action or impose a financial penalty. In order to protect the integrity of the process, Ofwat will not be able to discuss the specifics of the case until the investigation has concluded.
Notes to editors
- Ofwat has launched an investigation into South East Water under its Section 203 Water Industry Act 1991 powers
- South East Water is the worst performer for supply interruptions in England and Wales in the first three years of the 2020-25 period (Water Company Performance Report 2022-23)
- The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has recently (31 October) informed South East Water that it is considering taking enforcement action to secure improvements to South East Water’s supply system and ability to respond to incidents, and we will be working closely with the DWI to secure compliance in a way that addresses both our concerns.