Since 2015, water and sewage companies were fined over £141m according to the Environment Agency. It added that 56 prosecutions were made due to pollution-related incidents during this time, and in 2021, rule-breaking companies were handed fines worth tens of millions of pounds, a record annual amount.
"The volume of sewage being discharged into our waters is unacceptable, and can cause significant harm to our wildlife and sensitive habitats.
"It is right that water companies are made to pay when they break the rules, but it is also right that this money is then channelled back into improving water quality.
"Water company fines reached a record level last year, and moving forward these plans will significantly increase funding that will be used to recover, protect and enhance our natural environment.
"This is on top of the £56bn investment we’re requiring water companies to invest in improving our water infrastructure, as well as holding them to account through tough new targets."
It is right that water companies are made to pay when they break the rules, but it is also right that this money is then channelled back into improving water quality.
The Environment Agency and Ofwat (the Water Services Regulation Authority) currently impose these fines, which are then returned to the Treasury. Under new legislation however, the funds will be ringfenced towards Defra’s environment and water quality projects. These projects range from the restoration of our riverbanks to the protection and creation of wetlands. Worthwhile causes in need of a financial injection which will benefit our flora and fauna as well businesses that rely on our environment.
In addition, the Environment Agency has been boosted by a £2.2m per year budget to crack down on polluting organisations. This is said to include at least 4,000 farm visits and 500 sewerage inspections a year, while companies seen breaking water and sewage pollution rules will face more substantial financial and legal penalties.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt adds: "These fines hold rule-breaking companies to account and mean record investment in our waterways.
"It comes on top of our requirement for water companies to invest in the natural environment – raising the largest ever environmental infrastructure investment of £56bn over 25 years."