- Shameera Sarwar
Consequential fines will be faced by the Water Firms
The great quality water is not only responsible for our survival but also for the survival of our ecosystem. According to a survey, each person in the United Kingdom uses around 140 litres of water for drinking and household use every day. The water that we are using in our homes is clean, on the other hand, an increase in water pollution means costly treatments would be required to treat that polluted water and make it portable. Which will indeed raise the household bills.
The main cause of water pollution is the excessive use of fertilisers and pesticides in agriculture, which is responsible for 40% of pollution in water in England. Pollution by water companies is particularly high in England (especially in the south and southwest regions). Scotland has the largest number of high-quality rivers. There are 66% of rivers in good
condition in Scotland; 40% in Wales; 33% in Northern Ireland; and only 14% in England.
England has a combined sewage system meaning wastewater and rainwater are treated and deposited in the same place. Whereas the Environmental agency said that due to heavy rainfall, sewage water needs to be drained into the sea and rivers sometimes to decrease the risk of flooding. In 2022, 375,000-time sewage water was depleted into the seas and rivers. However, some water firms exceeded the limit provided by the Environmental Agency and were fined. Last year South Water was fined 90 million pounds for dumping billions of litres of
untreated sewage water in Hampshire, Kent, and West Sussex. There was a proposal forwarded by previous Environmental Secretary,
Ranil Jayawardena to increase the maximum fine from 250,000 to 250m. However, The Times reported that the government is backing away from the plans to fine water firms, who are dumping a plethora of sewage water in seas and rivers. That’s the reason Labour accused the government of “the same old promises” without action. But Ms Pow alluded that water firms ‘must act urgently’ to improve their performance. In contrast, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural informed the media that all options including a 250m fine are still on the table. Ranil Jayawardena’s successor Therese Coffey illustrated that such an increase is disproportionate. A consultation will soon take place in spring regarding the issue of the cap on Civil Penalties for water companies. Water companies faced increased scrutiny due to discharging myriad concentrations of untreated sewage water in seas and rivers.
In response to a question on the performance of firms in the House of Commons, Ms Pow told MPs ‘Where water and sewage are found to be breaking Law there will be substantial penalties. We are looking at whether we will go ahead with the £250m cap that has been proposed and we will be consulting on that shortly.’ This statement by Ms Pow reveals that the Government is aware of the issue and will act where it would be required. The Environmental Minister indicated that the current situation is ‘totally unacceptable’. Further said, ‘the British people expect better, and so does this government.’
From Labour’s perspective, shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon accused the government of failing to take action against firms. In addition, he concluded his conversation by saying, ‘the water companies know they can laugh as the government won’t take action.’
MP Caroline Nokes suggested that fines are just not enough to force companies to improve their performance. To make her point valid, she further implies the message by stating ‘Southern Water had a record 90m levied a few years ago – that wasn’t enough to convey the
message. So rather than the fines, could we make sure that money is levied to force investment in the Network? Because current performance showed that it simply hasn’t worked.’
I agree with both Labour and Conservative perspectives, as I think the government should act against those water companies who are breaking the Law and then invest the levied in the Network.
According to the current report, if water companies break the law or are a detriment to the environment, Environmental Agencies can pursue both Criminal and Civil Prosecution. While the fines handed out to those companies through criminal prosecutions are unlimited. Additionally, civil sanctions can be imposed easily without lengthy court procedures. Which can be seen as a further warning sign for those companies who are breaking the law. Water firms should take initiative to stop depleting excess volume of sewage water in the seas and rivers. Further, I will conclude by saying it’s not only the Government’s responsibility to act
against those companies and stop them from harming our Ecosystem. All of us need to play a role in it by encouraging the government to act against those who are breaking the law