Southern Water Court Sentencing 9 July 2021

Statement from CEO Ian McAulay

I am deeply sorry for the historic incidents which have led to today’s sentencing and fine. I know that the people who rely on us to be custodians of the precious environment in southern England must be able to trust us. What happened historically was completely unacceptable and Southern Water pleaded guilty to the charges in recognition of that fact.

We have heard what the judge has said today and will reflect closely on the sentence and his remarks. He has rightly put the environment front and centre which is what matters to all of us.

These events happened between 2010 and 2015. I joined Southern Water in 2017 and am passionately committed to the environment. We have changed the way we operate. My expectation is that Southern Water is fully transparent and operates in the right way. We continue to transform across the areas of risk and compliance, measurement and self-reporting. We have made much progress and are continuing to invest to protect the environment and deliver our services safely and at a fair price for our customers.

Today’s fine will not impact customers’ bills and investment in our transformation will not be reduced. Our shareholders are bearing the cost of the fine.


For more information please contact: [email protected]

Notes to Editors

Southern Water has invested in measuring, transparency and accountability: 

  • We have embedded robust compliance measures across our business as part of our wider cultural change
  • Our Executive Leadership Team has overseen the creation of a new Compliance and Asset Resilience Directorate, headed up by a Director of Risk & Compliance
  • Our ethical business framework has been rolled out across the business and provides our managers with the guidance they need to take the right decisions, in the right way
  • In a recent report, the EA itself recognised that the company’s culture has changed for the better
  • Our roll out of Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) technology across 98 per cent of the network since 2017 is industry leading. It helps us build a clearer and more detailed picture of the use of CSOs, so we can better target future investment and operational activity.
  • We have stepped up our self-reporting significantly, for example, our industry-leading Beachbuoy initiative demonstrates a culture of transparency and willingness to engage in wider debate about the climate, environmental and population density challenges faced in the UK
  • We have implemented our ‘Quick Check’ decision-making tool which enables all employees to adhere to a set of common, ethical working practices and sense-check their actions against our redefined values
  • We have a new whistleblower framework in place called ‘Speak Up’
  • This year (2021) we also established a Culture Collaboration Group, which meets monthly to provide programme oversight and to share ideas and best practice on positively influencing culture change

Southern Water has invested in our service to our customers

  • 122,244 customers have received either a discount on their bill or a capped bill from Southern Water since April 2020
  • The Covid pandemic resulted in heightened awareness of the financial benefits of using more wisely. In response we have launched virtual water-saving visits via our new online water calculator, ‘Get Water Fit’
  • We have reached 130,000 customers with our ‘Unflushables’ campaign, driving home the issues caused by wet wipes and other unflushable items in our sewer network
  • SW engaged with 42,000 regional stakeholders through a series of surveys and workshops to determine its future water and wastewater programmes for 2020 – 25

Southern Water has invested in the environment

  • We have developed and implemented one of the first published Pollution Incident Reduction Plans (PIRP) to deliver a sustainable reduction in pollution incidents.
  • We have merged our Environment Agency and Ofwat reporting to ensure consistency across both areas
  • Bathing water at beaches across the South East have achieved their highest ever ratings in Defra’s Bathing Water sampling regime. We have invested more than £32 million on improving bathing waters in the past five years and in 2019 58 were rated as ‘excellent’ and 21 ‘Good’ compared to 1989 when 31% failed to meet the more basic standards that were required at the time.
  • All 83 bathing water sites and two recreational harbour sites in our region now have our online storm release notification system, Beachbuoy
  • Our Catchment First programme is investigating potential pollutants that could compromise the sustainability of our drinking water supplies and is working in partnership with farmers and landowners to manage those risks
  • Since April 2021, we are purchasing 100% green energy as part of our Net Zero Plan
  • During 2020–21, we have refocused our baseline operations to further reduce pollution incidents and increase compliance through investment in capital maintenance, digitisation and incident response
  • In 2020 – 21, 100% of the bio-solids from our wastewater treatment process were recycled.