South East Water: Ofwat investigates possible supply failures

5 months ago 90

Bottled water stationImage source, Eddie Mitchell

Image caption,

Bottled water stations were set up in Kent and Sussex amid water supply issues in December last year

By Christian Fuller

BBC News

An investigation has been launched by the water regulator into South East Water over possible failures in maintaining supplies to households.

The water company is currently the worst performer for water supply interruptions in England and Wales, Ofwat said.

The firm supplies about 2.2 million customers in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire.

South East Water has been approached for comment.

'Failed too often'

From 2022 to 2023, there was an average of more than three hours of water supply lost per property, compared with its performance commitment level of about five minutes and 45 seconds, Ofwat said.

The regulator said it was looking at whether the supplier had failed to develop and maintain an efficient water supply system.

David Black, Ofwat chief executive, said: "Providing reliable water supplies is at the heart of a water company's responsibilities.

"Too many customers have been failed too often by South East Water.

"We are clear that water companies must do more to regain public trust and it must start with better service.

"Where this does not happen, we will use all of our powers to ensure the sector delivers better value for both customers and the environment."

The investigation comes after the firm imposed a hosepipe ban earlier this year, blaming more people working from home for ramping up demand and "testing" its infrastructure.

In the latest Water Company Performance Report, Ofwat categorised South East Water as "lagging behind" and required it to publish a service commitment plan by the end of November to address several areas of underperformance, including supply interruptions.

The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) said it was supporting Ofwat's investigation because customers' trust in the supplier had been "undermined by the company's repeated poor handling of supply interruptions".

Chief executive of the CCW Mike Keil said: "There was considerable anger and frustration among many people who felt unsupported, compounded by the company's poor communication.

"Customers have a right to expect better from an essential service provider."

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