Isle of Wight water supplier, Southern Water, remained one of the country's poorest performers in 2022, according to the Environment Agency's just-published annual report.

The company has been upgraded from one star to two, but continues to fall short of its competitors, said the Environment Agency.

Reacting, Southern Water said it has ambitions to improve further and faster and aims to reach three stars by 2025.   

The report said Southern Water showed what the Environment Agency called modest improvement compared to 2021, while three other providers saw a fall in their performance ratings.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Meanwhile, just days before the 2022 report was published, on July 4, a burst sewer led to more than nine hours of emergency pumping in the Sandown area.

What did the Environment Agency report say?

  • The number of Southern Water's most serious pollution incidents went down from 12, in 2021, to five in 2022.
  • The total number of pollution incidents involving the firm went down from 372, in 2021, to 358 in 2022.
  • The Environment Agency said that was still unacceptably high.
  • Around 90 per cent of all pollution incidents were reported by the supplier itself.

Responding, Southern Water said there will be more than £3 billion of capital investment between 2020-25 - an extra £2 billion on what was announced in 2021.

The increase comes from a £1.1 billion investment by the company's major shareholder and a promise of £550 million from shareholders by October.

Lawrence Gosden, Southern Water’s CEO, said: "This has been a challenging year for our customers and our business.

"The sector is under intense scrutiny.

"We also face...climate change, population growth and the need to upgrade a legacy network of pipes and pumping stations, treatment works and storm overflows to meet increasingly stringent regulatory standards and the expectations of our customers and wider.  

"We are directing all our efforts into executing our plans, investing wisely, and employing cutting-edge technology in the right places to highlight risks and to enable us to respond more intelligently and proactively." 

Isle of Wight County Press:

What action is being taken to stop pollution?

  • A new law has now made it easier for the Environment Agency to fine polluting companies.
  • The most serious cases go to court.
  • The Environment Agency says it is expanding its task force to ensure water companies follow the rules.
  • Compliance checks are being increased.
  • Data will help manage storm overflows.
  • In April, Southern Water published its Turnaround Plan - setting out how it plans to tackle the problem.

Government water minister, Rebecca Pow, said:  "There is significant work to do to drive the improvements in our rivers and seas that we need to see.

The government’s Plan for Water is focused on more investment, tougher enforcement and tighter regulation.

"We have put new regulatory powers in place to allow the Environment Agency to impose sanctions on water companies without always going through the courts. This will be an important tool in its armoury to hold companies to account."

One of the poorest performing companies

Simon Moody, Environment Agency Area Deputy Director said: "Although we have seen some improvement...Southern Water remains one of the poorest performing companies in the country. That is unacceptable.

"This year we expect to see them build on the early improvements of 2022 across their entire business and will continue to hold them to account if this is not the case. 

"We cannot transform water quality in the way we all want if water companies’ environmental performance does not improve.

"We will always work closely with water companies who want to do the right thing and take robust action against those who don’t."

Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell said: "While there have been some modest improvements, it is unacceptable to still be seeing this level of pollution.

"We have seen a distinct culture shift from the water industry in recent months and that is welcome – but that must translate to profound, long-term change."

The Environment Agency uses its Environmental Performance Assessment (EPA) to rate each company in England from 1 to 4 stars.

It takes into account performance on environmental commitments such as pollution incidents and permit compliance.

Severn Trent remains the highest performer, with four out of four possible stars.