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South West Water owner delays environmental performance rating target

The company behind South West Water and Bristol Water has abandoned its ambition to reach a four-star environmental performance rating in 2024, blaming “current operating conditions”.

Pennon Group said that it now does not think it will achieve the four-star environmental performance assessment result until 2025.

It expects to be given a two-star rating for the second year in a row for 2023, something that the Environment Agency says means that the “company requires improvement”.

In 2021 South West Water was given a one-star, or “poor performing company” rating.

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“We anticipate retaining two-star EPA status for 2023, assuming Environment Agency confirmation of our improved water resource position,” Pennon said.

“For 2024, whilst six of the seven EPA metrics are tracking positively towards four-star equivalent performance, current operating conditions have meant the benefits of our pollution incident reduction plan will not be seen until 2025.

“As such overall four-star EPA status is now reprofiled for 2025.”

It came as there was a 50% jump in the amount of rainfall in the South West during the second half of the year ending later this week compared to the average over several years.

There have been 10 named storms since September, and 12 yellow weather warnings. This makes it more difficult for water companies to manage their systems.

“The significantly increased wastewater flows have impacted our headline performance for wastewater pollutions and use of storm overflows,” Pennon said.

Pennon has been investing to improve its performance in recent years. It has now completed work to diversify its water resources in Devon, and has done 70% of the works it planned in Cornwall.

It has completed works at Blackpool Pit, an abandoned clay pit outside St Austell which is now being used to help store water.

“In Devon, our winter pump storage work at Gatherley is also now operational, and along with the Lyd pumping scheme delivered last year, both new schemes have been used this year to support improvement in our water resources in Devon,” Pennon said.

Its new desalination plant in South Cornwall is expected to be up and running within the next year.

The company wants to increase Cornwall’s water resources 45% by 2025, and has met its ambition to increase Devon’s resources by 30% a year ahead of schedule.