PN 24/22 South West Water latest company targeted in Ofwat investigation due to environmental performance


Ofwat has announced that it has opened an enforcement case against South West Water as part of its ongoing investigation into how all wastewater companies manage their wastewater treatment works.

South West Water joins Anglian Water, Northumbrian Water, Thames Water, Wessex Water and Yorkshire Water, on the list of companies Ofwat has opened enforcement cases into. Ongoing concerns and the latest performance data on South West Water’s environmental performance have prompted the move by Ofwat. The company has now been served with a formal notice to gather further information for enforcement purposes.

As well as South West Water, the five enforcement cases opened in March are continuing as Ofwat still has concerns, some serious, arising from the information provided to Ofwat, both in December last year and in response to formal notices issued by the regulator. This is to ask and understand more about those concerns and, where things have gone wrong, to seek further assurances that things are being put right as quickly as possible. From what Ofwat has seen so far, particular areas of concern include

  • issues about the quality and completeness of the information companies have about how their wastewater treatment works are performing; and,
  • what they do with that information to ensure the works are adequate, operating correctly and not causing environmental harm, such as through sewage discharges.

All wastewater companies in England and Wales remain subject to the ongoing investigation. Ofwat will keep the focus of its enforcement cases under review, and the companies in focus may change as new information comes to light. Ofwat will shortly be writing to the remaining companies to request updates on the progress of remediation plans they submitted to Ofwat in December.

David Black, Ofwat Chief Executive, said:

“The serious concerns we identified last year prompted our initial focus on five companies. As we gather and analyse more information, including data on storm overflow spills, our concerns have grown further about South West Water’s operation of its wastewater assets and environmental performance. As a result, we have opened an additional enforcement case into South West Water.

“We have now opened enforcement cases against the majority of wastewater companies in England and Wales. From what we have seen so far, the scale of the issue here is shocking – companies must resolve any problems at wastewater treatment works and do so quickly. Where they have breached their obligations, we will not hesitate to act.”

As the investigation continues, Ofwat expects all companies to make quick progress to address non-compliance and strengthen the management of their environmental obligations as a whole. Ofwat is working closely with the Environment Agency, who are carrying out a criminal investigation into companies’ compliance with environmental permits. Ofwat’s enforcement powers can see the regulator fine companies up to 10% of their annual turnover.