Water company inspections will more than quadruple as the Government cracks down on poor performing companies

The Government has announced plans that will see water company inspections more than quadruple, in an attempt to crack down on poor performing companies.

The Environment Agency (EA) is already ramping up inspections on water company assets, with over 930 completed this financial year. Today’s announcement goes further as water company inspections carried out by the EA will rise to 4000 a year by the end of March 2025, and then to 10,000 from April 2026. This will include an increase in unannounced inspections – strengthening oversight of water companies and reducing the reliance on water company self-monitoring, which was established in 2009.

Increased inspections and enforcement will be backed by around £55 million each year. This will be fully funded through increased grant-in-aid from Defra to the Environment Agency and additional funding from water quality permit charges levied on water companies, subject to a public consultation closing in March 2024.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:  

Steve Barclay, Environment Secretary“We are clear that we need to get much tougher with unannounced inspections to bring an end to the routine lawbreaking we have seen from water companies, which is what this announcement will deliver.

“We are going further to quadruple the Environment Agency’s regulatory capacity – allowing them to carry out 4,000 water company inspections by the end of the next financial year.”

Environment Agency Chair Alan Lovell said:   

Alan Lovell
Alan Lovell, Environment Agency Chair

“Last year we set out measures to transform the way we regulate the water industry to uncover non-compliance and drive better performance. Today’s announcement builds on that. Campaign groups and the public want to see the Environment Agency better resourced to do what it does best, regulate for a better environment.

“Proposals to get extra boots on the ground to increase inspection visits will help further strengthen our regulation of the industry.”

With 100% of storm overflows now monitored, data-driven analytics will also help the Environment Agency map discharges against rainfall more effectively so they can quickly direct new specialist officers to any sites at risk, identify any non-compliance and take action.

The EA is already conducting the largest ever criminal investigation into potential widespread non-compliance by water and sewerage companies at thousands of sewage treatment works. Since 2015, the EA has concluded 59 prosecutions against water and sewerage companies securing fines of over £150 million.




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