Severn Trent admits water firms should have ‘acted faster’ over sewage spills

Suppliers are under pressure to modernise the Victorian-era sewage networks.

Anna Wise
Wednesday 24 May 2023 14:09 BST
Severn Trent has admitted that the water sector should have acted faster to tackle sewage spills (Severn Trent/ PA)
Severn Trent has admitted that the water sector should have acted faster to tackle sewage spills (Severn Trent/ PA) (PA Archive)

Severn Trent has admitted that the water sector should have acted faster to tackle sewage spills as it anticipated the “biggest investment period the sector has ever seen”.

The remarks came as the water supplier revealed an increase in its profit and turnover and plans to boost capital investment by up to £1 billion.

Severn Trent said it was leading on environmental change having hit 100% of its performance pledges.

“However, as a sector, we recognise that we should have given sewage activations much more attention and acted faster, and we want to be a driving force for positive change”, the company said.

We are expecting the biggest investment period the sector has ever seen, with a focus on water resources, improving environmental standards and on net zero

Liv Garfield, Severn Trent's chief executive

It made improvements across its leakage performance, water quality complaints, and persistent low pressure and pollutions, but said external sewer flooding is a “key focus area”.

The company, which provides water services in England and Wales, has been among the water giants coming under fire for failing to effectively tackle spills in rivers and beaches.

It contributed to “monster” sewage dumps in England’s rivers and seas last year, spilling more than 6,600 hours worth of sewage into a brook in Rutland, according to the Liberal Democrats’ analysis of Environment Agency data last month.

Suppliers are under pressure to modernise the Victorian-era sewage networks.

Severn Trent said it had significantly reduced sewage spillages and was investing billions in its region to improve water and waste services.

“We are expecting the biggest investment period the sector has ever seen, with a focus on water resources, improving environmental standards and on net zero, and we feel more than ready for this exciting opportunity ahead of us”, chief executive Liv Garfield said.

Capital investment could reach between £850 million and £1 billion over the next financial year, according to the firm’s guidance.

It also said it had ramped up financial support for customers, amid plans to help support 100,000 people out of poverty by 2032.

The FTSE 100-listed firm reported a profit before tax and interest of £509 million for the year to the end of March, and an 11% boost in turnover to £2.2 billion.

This year has been a true test of water resilience for the sector, with some of the hottest and driest months ever experienced over the summer

Liv Garfield

The improved financial performance came despite facing extreme weather conditions and rocketing energy prices, Ms Garfield said.

She said: “This year has been a true test of water resilience for the sector, with some of the hottest and driest months ever experienced over the summer, followed by a sharp cold snap and rapid thaw over the winter.”

Yet the supplier has kept water flowing and not enforced a hosepipe ban for nearly 30 years, she added.

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