Southern Water insists it will deliver significant change for customers and the environment after it was told by water industry regulator, Ofwat, to pay out £28.3 million for missing targets on water treatment works compliance, pollution incidents and internal sewer flooding in 2021/22.

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Ofwat has listed Southern Water as being among the poorer performing companies that it oversees.

It has told the utility firm that supplies the Isle of Wight to cut bills in 2023/2024.

For similar reasons, Thames Water, must pay £51 million.

In all, 11 companies have missed targets, but not all are required to reduce bills.

David Black, Ofwat CEO, said: "When it comes to delivering for their customers, too many water companies are falling short, and we are requiring them to return around £150m to their customers. 

"We expect companies to improve their performance every year; where they fail to do so, we will hold them to account.

"The poorest performers, Southern Water and Thames Water, will have to return almost £80m to their customers.

"All water companies need to earn back the trust of customers and the public and we will continue to challenge the sector to improve." 

What has Southern Water said about Ofwat's decision this week?

Reacting to this week's decision by Ofwat, a Southern Water spokesperson said: "As laid out in our annual report, we recognise that Southern Water has not always met expectations in recent years but is now in a position to deliver significant change for our customers and the environment.  

"This includes investing £2 billion (around £1,000 per household) between 2020-25, more than our regulatory allowance, to significantly improve our performance.

"We are on-track to reduce pollutions by 40 per cent, compared to 2021, with much still to be done to maintain this to the end of the year, and we are also industry leading in self-reporting." 

Southern Water has used its outfall pipes around the Isle of Wight many times this season, allowed where needed to prevent the sewage system becoming overwhelmed, as the Isle of Wight County Press has been reporting.

Stricter guidelines are due to be brought in, but not soon.

By 2035, water companies will have to improve all storm overflows discharging into, or near, every designated bathing water site; and improve 75 per cent of overflows discharging to high priority nature sites.