Wildlife Trust responds to news of Ofwat penalties for Southern Water

Ofwat has today given notice that it intends to impose a £126million penalty on Southern Water for its past failure to comply with regulations regarding waste water treatment and monitoring.

Investigations by Ofwat have concluded that between 2010 and 2017 Southern Water failed to operate a number of wastewater treatment works properly, including by not making the necessary investment, which led to equipment failures and spills of wastewater into the environment.

Waste water discharge can contain a toxic cocktail of domestic, industrial and agricultural pollution including hydrocarbons, heavy metals and chemicals like pesticides as well as the nutrients from sewage systems. These pollutants contribute significantly to declines in freshwater and marine species such as salmon and native crayfish and can have knock on impacts on humans through the shellfish that we eat, for example.

River Itchen at Itchen Stoke Mill

© Linda Pitkin - 2020Vision

Responding to the announcement today, Debbie Tann, Chief Executive at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, said: “Our chalk streams and coastal waters are among the most important and precious habitats for wildlife and are under untenable pressure.  For decades our rivers and seas have been polluted by wastewater discharges as well as run-off from the land.  The Wildlife Trusts and other groups have long since highlighted the devastating impacts that these toxins can have on our wildlife and natural environment; decimating freshwater and marine species and jeopardising our vital natural resources.  We have repeatedly called on water companies and other polluters to clean up their act.

Our water companies should have both a responsibility and a vested interest to protect and enhance the environment and create a healthy and sustainable resource for people and wildlife.   We are pleased to see that Southern Water are taking meaningful steps to transform the way they do business and moving away from the bad practices of the past.   Under the company’s new leadership we expect that Southern Water will put investment in restoration and protection of the environment at the very top of their agenda going forward.  

“The Wildlife Trusts already work in partnership with Southern Water and other water companies to deliver practical improvements to our rivers and surrounding land and we hope today’s announcement will signal a real step change towards a better future for our natural environment.”

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust will be working in partnership with Southern Water over the coming years to deliver a range of projects across the Test and Itchen catchments, aiming to improve the resilience of the rivers to cope with drought conditions and improve conditions for wetland wildlife.