Eight of the 14 areas of England are now classified as being in drought, with hosepipe bans being implemented across increasing areas of the country.
The Environment Agency recently called for water company bosses to be jailed for serious pollution, after finding the water firms’ performance on pollution had declined to the worst seen in years.
The bosses of England’s water companies have been criticised for banking £58m in pay and benefits over the last five years. Since privatisation, shareholders have been paid £72bn in dividends. The cash came from big debts, with companies borrowing £56bn, and big bills, with prices rising 40%.
Stuart Singleton-White, head of campaigns at the Angling Trust, said: “The profits being made by water companies, who are in effect private monopolies, the dividend payments to shareholders, the inflated salaries and bonuses to the CEOs, and the debts that have been run up by these companies, mostly to support dividends and inflated salaries, rather than finance investment, is a clear sign this is a broken market.”
He pointed out that no new reservoirs have been built in England since water companies were privatised, and that years of underinvestment had led to “unacceptable levels of leaks”. Water companies currently leak around a quarter of their supply through old pipes, with 2,954m litres a day seeping away last year.
“When the crisis hit, our water system was not ready”, Singleton-White said, blaming “the greed of the water companies, the weakness of the regulators and the complacency of the government”.
Former Conservative environment minister Rebecca Pow said, “These salaries are unacceptable if they can’t with a clear conscience provide clean, plentiful and sustainable water."
Area: Greater London, parts of Kent, Essex and Gloucestershire