The industry body representing UK water companies – called, perhaps predictably, Water UK – has issued an apology for sewage spillages in England’s rivers, but for many members of the public, the latest move just doesn’t wash with them.
Environment Agency figures released earlier this year found that for 2022, there were an average of 824 sewage spills a day, with a total of 301,091 spills for the year as a whole.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Water UK chair Ruth Kelly said: “The message from the water and sewage industry today is clear: we are sorry.
“More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches. We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right.
“This problem cannot be fixed overnight, but we are determined to do everything we can to transform our rivers and seas in the way we all want to see.”
Part of the “unprecedented plan” is to secure new funding to the tune of £10bn this decade, though that prompted more controversy when Ms Kelly told BBC Breakfast that “over 50 years” or “perhaps even longer, up to 100 years” customers will contribute to that investment.
Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter
When presenter Naga Munchetty asked why they should spend a century paying to deal with sewage issues, Ms Kelly – a former Labour politician - replied: “If you wanted to invest in a house you have to borrow to invest and get a mortgage and pay that back.
“You do need to provide shareholders with some sort of return over the long term, but we’re very, very conscious of the upward potential pressure on customers.”
Yet Twitter users still aren’t happy – especially not with shareholders:
\u201c@BBCBreakfast We will see how much you get it when the shareholder dividends are announced.\u201d— BBC Breakfast (@BBC Breakfast) 1684386572
\u201c@BBCBreakfast @BBCNews And yet it's still happening after years of public complaints\u201d— BBC Breakfast (@BBC Breakfast) 1684386572
\u201cThe Chair of Water UK, Ruth Kelly, states that water companies don't actually make much profit and that shareholders 'do need to see some sort of return'\n\nKelly was a New Labour Education Secretary and left Labour in 2018 when it was committed to nationalising water companies\u201d— j (@j) 1684392374
\u201c@BBCBreakfast @BBCNews We need to nationalise water companies agan imo.\u201d— BBC Breakfast (@BBC Breakfast) 1684393370
\u201c@BBCBreakfast @BBCNews \u201cWill no one think of the share holders\u201d??????\u201d— BBC Breakfast (@BBC Breakfast) 1684393370
\u201c@BBCBreakfast Water companies have paid out BILLIONS in dividends to shareholders so here\u2019s an idea THEY CAN PAY FOR IT\u201d— BBC Breakfast (@BBC Breakfast) 1684393370
\u201c@BBCBreakfast Ban payment of dividends until investment in sewers & water storage has been carried out to satisfactory level, given issues of population increase, more houses & climate change.\nIf any water company doesn\u2019t want to do that then should be stripped of licence to operate.\u201d— BBC Breakfast (@BBC Breakfast) 1684393370
\u201cWater UK's response to "Why is it ever acceptable for untreated sewage to enter the waterways?" sounds suspiciously like "the mess we inherited from the Victorians".\n\nThis sector was privatised by the 1989 Water Act on the promise of investment to renew the network. It's 2023.~AA\u201d— Best for Britain (@Best for Britain) 1684402393
\u201cWhat they say\n\n\u2018We are sorry. More should have been done, The public is right to be upset about quality of our rivers and beaches\u2019\n-Water UK\n\nWhat they do\n\nBritain\u2019s water companies paid \u00a31.4bn in dividends in 2022. Bonuses paid to water executives rose by 20% in 2021\u201d— Paul Johnson (@Paul Johnson) 1684392607
\u201cWater UK has apologised on behalf of water companies for not acting quickly enough to tackle sewage dumping. \n\nThey have pledged to cut spills by up to 35% by 2030, noting that this could increase our bills.\n\nThis is too little, too late; just nationalise the water companies.\u201d— Breakthrough Party \ud83d\udfe0\ud83c\udf24\ufe0f (@Breakthrough Party \ud83d\udfe0\ud83c\udf24\ufe0f) 1684395000
So the morning news round hasn’t gone too swimmingly, then…
Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.