Our Response to the Unite Protest

We welcome the chance Unite is giving us to engage with people who – like us - love and care about our natural environment.

We are pleased that people are passionate about the environment and getting more involved with causes such as water quality – we urge them to continue to speak up and campaign to help make a difference and effect change.

People across our region are making it clear the use of storm releases is no longer acceptable. We are already acting now to cut pollution incidents by 80 per cent over the next four years.

Now, we want to reduce our use of storm releases because it is the right thing to do for our customers and the environment.

With the creation this week of a task force to tackle storm releases, we believe we can also achieve an 80 per cent reduction in storm releases by 2030. 

We are launching four pathfinder projects to tackle releases from three key areas on the Isle of Wight, Hampshire and Kent to prove it can be done. Working with our regulators and partners, we are ready to design and deliver the necessary innovative solutions to achieve these goal.

Fresh capital from shareholders means our plans for investment have been widened and accelerated.

We are spending £2 billion by 2025 on our infrastructure and the environment, to serve our customers, the environment and boost local economies around our 700 miles of coastline. We have invested some £7 billion since 2010 while paying shareholders less than £200 million in dividends.

No dividend has been paid since 2016-17. And no dividend will be paid unless strict environmental and customer service criteria are met – we are clear that looking after our customers and the environment must be our priorities.

The most efficient, cost effective and environmentally beneficial way of reducing storm releases and the carbon footprint they create is to separate surface water drainage from the sewer system. Reducing the amount of rainwater run-off from roads by around 40 per cent would mean an 80 per cent reduction in storm water releases. It will also continue to protect homes, businesses and other properties from flooding, which is vital role storm releases currently provide.

It is important to remember that all 83 of our bathing waters meet strict European standards, a challenge which 20 years ago seemed impossible, but we have delivered. Our bathing waters are now the cleanest since Environment Agency (EA) testing records began.

We know these demonstrations are in response to people’s increased awareness of the storm releases that happen in their area. This awareness is in part because of our industry-leading Beachbuoy Portal; another visible and public example of our commitment to tackle this problem. Beachbuoy provides near real-time information on releases of storm water and is part of our drive to be as transparent as possible.

Storm releases during intense periods of rainfall are not raw sewage but usually more than 95 per cent rainwater. They happen to protect customers’ homes, schools, hospitals and businesses from flooding. They are tightly regulated by the EA.

We invite those involved with the protest to meet with us to hear about our work, our investment and our commitment to improve service to our customers and discuss ways to work together to achieve a goal we share, to protect the environment.