British Queen celebrates


The UK government is set to announce plans that would hold water companies accountable for their role in polluting rivers and seasides. Environment Secretary, Therese Coffey, is expected to

reveal proposals that aim to make polluters pay for their actions, and tougher fines would be imposed on water companies. These fines would be used to create a “water restoration fund” to ensure that the money from higher penalties and fines would go directly back into the rivers, lakes, and streams that need it. Under the proposed changes, water companies could face unlimited fines and penalties.

The new measures come as a response to the latest Environment Agency figures that showed 301,091 sewage spills in 2022, which averages to 824 spills a day. While this marks a 19% decrease from the previous year, the reduction is due to dry weather rather than any action taken by the water companies.

The government is expected to publish a six-week consultation on strengthening the Environment Agency’s ability to impose sanctions on water companies without having to go through the courts. This includes lifting the upper cap on civil penalties on water companies to allow for unlimited fines.

Defra, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, said the proposed penalties would be quicker and easier to enforce, with the most serious cases still taken through criminal proceedings.

Currently, penalties and fines imposed by Ofwat, the water regulator, are returned to the Treasury. The proposed government plans would see this money instead returned to Defra.

Campaigners and environmentalists have been pressuring the government to take action to combat pollution in recent months. The new measures are expected to be part of a series of plans to toughen enforcement against companies that pollute. Coffey stated that “more needs to be done to protect” rivers, lakes, and streams and that she wants to ensure that regulators have the powers and tools to take tough action against companies that are breaking the rules, and to do so more quickly.

Opposition parties, however, have criticized the proposed measures, with Labour labeling them “flimsy” and the Liberal Democrats calling for Coffey’s resignation. Despite this, the government’s plans aim to hold water companies accountable for their role in polluting the UK’s waterways and ensure that they pay for their actions. Photo by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street, Wikimedia commons.