Ofwat to penalise companies for failing to monitor storm overflows


Ofwat has today set out new measures so that companies face penalties if they do not fully monitor their storm overflows.

All companies will have targets for reducing the average number of spills from storm overflows, and where they do not meet those targets, they will be subject to financial penalties. Where storm overflows do not have a working monitor, Ofwat will assume that spills from those overflows are twice as bad as the current average to push companies to make sure the monitors are working in the first place.

The storm overflows targets, which will form part of Ofwat’s Price Review for 2025 to 2030, will operate alongside other performance commitments which focus on the environment, including bathing water quality, river water quality and biodiversity. They will help to drive delivery of the UK Government’s Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan and the Welsh Government’s Storm Overflows Action Plan, and are consistent with the strategic priorities set by the UK and Welsh Governments for Ofwat.

The move comes at the same time that Ofwat has an ongoing investigation into all wastewater companies in England and Wales. The regulator is looking into how wastewater companies are operating their sewage treatment works, including whether sewage has been discharged into the environment at times when this should not be happening. The investigation – the biggest ever undertaken by the regulator – currently includes enforcement cases against six wastewater companies.

Aileen Armstrong, Senior Director, Company Performance and Price Reviews, said:

“Companies need to reduce the use of storm overflows. We want to introduce measures to hold them to account for this and to ensure companies are effectively monitoring their use of storm overflows. We will continue to use all the powers we have to drive companies to get to grips with this issue.”

Ofwat is asking for comments on its proposed performance commitment on storm overflows by 23 May. It intends to publish the updated definition in June 2023 for companies to take account of it in their business plans, due to be submitted to the regulator in October 2023.

Full details can be found in the consultation on updating the storm overflows performance commitment definition for the 2024 Price Review (PR24)