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Ofwat blames four utilities for ‘Beast from the East’ water woes

Jillian Ambrose
Ofwat said there is 'no excuse' for 200,000 homes being left without water - PA

The water industry regulator has threatened to take action against four of the country’s largest water suppliers after homes were left without water in the wake of the "Beast from the East" storm. 

Ofwat said there is “no excuse” for how Thames Water, Severn Trent, Southern Water and South East Water failed to protect their customers from major water shortages in the aftermath of the severe weather earlier this year.

The sudden freeze and thaw of the water pipeline system caused serious damage to the country’s water network and devastating leakage which left 200,000 homes without water for hours.

Ofwat said its investigation into how water companies responded to the Siberian storm showed that while some utilities were prepared, others failed their customers.

“The freeze and rapid thaw earlier this year was forecast and was not unprecedented. A number of water companies showed what can be done to serve customers in the face of bad weather. But too many companies were caught off guard and let people down, causing real hardship as a result,” she said.

Ms Fletcher has offered the ‘failed four’ a grace period of three months to prove that they have put in place new emergency procedures to cope with future storms, or the regulator will take action.

'Beast from the East' brings snow and freezing weather to Europe, in pictures

“Our report shows there is no excuse for this level of failure,” she said.

Tony Smith, head of the Consumer Council for Water, said: “The most affected consumers felt badly let down by their water company, with little or no information and in many cases insufficient alternative supplies of water even for the most vulnerable households.

“As well as good compensation, consumers will want to see companies heavily penalised if they don’t act now to put these failures right,” he said.

Ms Fletcher, who joined Ofwat from the energy regulator last year, said she expects every water company to take action following the findings of the Ofwat review of the storm.

“We will take action if they don’t rise to this challenge,” she warned.