Making amends to our customers

Following our previous announcement in June 2019 and a public consultation, we’ve agreed improved plans to make payments to former customers, as well rebate existing customers.

The improvements to the initial proposals are:

  • Household bill payers and businesses that continue to pay wastewater charges after 1 April 2020 will receive a reduction to their wastewater charges from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2025, as previously announced.
  • Former customers – household bill payers and businesses that paid wastewater charges between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2020, but no longer pay from 1 April 2020 – will be able to apply for a payment through our website from 1 April until 30 September 2020.
  • We’ve committed to providing greater transparency on our environmental performance reporting.
  • If we fail to meet our relevant wastewater performance commitments, employees will not receive bonuses and incentive payments for personal objectives linked to wastewater compliance.

For further details about reductions to wastewater bills, applications for former customers, and payments please see our answers to frequently asked questions using the links on the left of the page, or below:

Household customer questions and answers

Business customer questions and answers

Improving transparency around our environmental performance


Including former customers

If Southern Water had correctly reported its wastewater compliance to the water regulator Ofwat, penalties would have been imposed. This would have meant lower wastewater charges for household bill payers and businesses between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2020.

Our updated proposals which Ofwat accepted now includes plans for us to make payments to those former household bill payers and businesses that no longer pay wastewater charges as of 1 April 2020.


How we're improving

We know that a number of failures of people, processes and systems allowed these breaches to occur and we have acted promptly and decisively to make sure that all of the issues identified in the investigation have been addressed.

This has involved making fundamental changes to the way we operate. Over the past two years these changes have included a full company restructure, a new executive team and a strengthened Board.

We have also put new systems in place to safeguard our services, our whistle-blowing procedures have been enhanced, and a revised set of company values have now been embedded. We’ve also introduced a modern compliance framework, and you can follow the link to read our new Code of Ethics.

We’ve also agreed plans for greater transparency on our environmental performance. Information that is available on pollution incidents, flow and spill reporting, wastewater treatment works compliance, regional bathing water compliance results, emissions and river levels will be published on the company website (this is subject to any constraints on reporting environmental information or data that is provided to us by the Environment Agency).

Follow the link to find out more about our plans to provide greater transparency on our environmental performance.

Overview of what happened

In January 2017, Ian McAulay met with Ofwat to discuss the issues we were facing, after the EA started an investigation into a small number of our wastewater treatment sites.

In June 2017, our regulator Ofwat started an investigation into possible breaches of licence conditions and our statutory reporting obligations relating to the management and operation of our wastewater treatment works.

We immediately started our own internal review and discovered a problem with sampling processes at some of our sites which meant that we needed to restate our wastewater performance for the period 2010–17. The findings of our own review have been shared with our regulators.

In June 2019 Ofwat’s investigation resulted in a proposal to take enforcement action against us. To reflect the seriousness of the breaches identified, Ofwat proposed to issue us with a financial penalty of £3 million and in addition, we agreed to make significant customer bill rebates, totalling £123 million* in recognition of our failure to meet the expectations of our customers and wider stakeholders, as well as our regulators.

This total will be made up of a rebate of £111.7 million*, together with a customer bill rebate of £11.2 million*, which will be made during 2020–21.

*In 2017–18 prices.

Chief Executive Statement

Since June 2017, our wastewater treatment compliance has been under investigation by Ofwat due to breaches of our licence conditions and statutory obligations during the period from 2010 to 2017.

We have fully supported these investigations and completed our own internal review, which has highlighted failures of people, processes and systems during that time.

We are profoundly sorry for these failures and have been working very hard to understand past failings and implement the changes required to ensure we better deliver for our customers and meet the standards they deserve.

Ian McAulay
Chief Executive

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