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Water industry's 2021 performance “the worst we have seen for years” says watchdog

In its Regulating for people, the environment and growth 2021 report, published last week, the Environment Agency restated that the English water industry’s performance last year was “the worst we have seen for years”.

Among the Agency’s key criticisms was that serious pollution incidents from the nine English firms rose from 44 in 2020 to 62 in 2021, the highest total since 2013. Seven companies reported four or more separate serious pollution incidents (see table).


Another concerned storm overflows where monitors “installed at our insistence” recorded over 370,000 sewage discharges from storm overflows in 2021, totalling over 2.6 million hours.


According to the report, some 87% of storm overflows had at least one spill, with 5% spilling more than 100 times.


However, among the successes covered were that 99% of bathing waters met minimum standards, and that the potential abstraction of 1.7 trillion litres of water from the environment had been removed through abstraction licence changes.


The report detailed the EA’s approach to regulation and summarised key data from 2021 across water, land and air as well as dealing with climate resilience and growth related issues.


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