Anglian Water customers could face a £91 increase on their bills every year, including £12 to help pay for the £10 billion investment plan to reduce sewage discharges in UK rivers and seas.
The company confirmed on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme that customers will see “something in the order of about £1.75 a week for bills” and this “would amount to £91 extra per year.”
After the interview, Anglian Water clarified that only £12 of this will go to the storm overflow upgrade plan.
It comes after water companies in England on Thursday (18 May) announced a £10 billion plan to modernise the “Victorian” sewers and issued a “we are sorry” statement over the scale of sewage spills that have occurred.
The new investment will initially be funded by shareholders in water companies but the public will have to pay towards upgrading storm overflows through increases in their bills by regulators for years.
Anglian Water’s head of public relations Regan Harris said: “The initial investment will be put forward by our shareholders and the way we’re financed is that they put up that investment and Ofwat allows us to recover a proportion of that from bills.
“What we’re looking at is a fairly small increase of probably a few percent a year between now and 2030.”
Ofwat said water companies will submit their National Overflows Plan by 2 October which will include any bill increases for the period 2025-30.
The regulator said it will “scrutinise” the plans and give a final announcement in December 2024, so any bill increases related to the storm overflows plan will not be felt until 2025.
A spokesperson said: “We will scrutinise the detail of the National Overflows Plan when it is submitted to Ofwat later this year, as part of companies’ wider investment plans for the 2025-30 period.
“These plans will set out what companies intend to deliver in each area and a timeline for completion.”
Ofwat added that water firms will have to “explain how their proposals will be funded, the proposed impact this will have on bills and their expected return to shareholders and lenders.”
Furious campaigners have slammed water companies for their “hollow” apology and plans to charge customers for sewage upgrades.
Greenpeace UK’s policy director Dr Doug Parr said getting the public to pay towards fixing the sewage problem is “a very strange way of being sorry”.
Mark Barrow, an underwater filmmaker at Beneath British Waters, who films sewage in UK rivers, told NationalWorld he is not “prepared to pay for a huge increase” for a problem created by water companies “so they should sort it”.
In England 301,091 sewage spills occurred last year amounting to 1.75 million hours of discharge, according to Environment Agency figures.
Monitoring stations for Welsh Water, a non-profit organisation, show the company discharged sewage for 602,987 hours in 2022, while publicly owned Scottish Water recorded 14,008 spills amounting to 113,230 hours.
Anti-sewage campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) said Northern Ireland is not required to produce the same data but an investigation by the Belfast Telegraph in 2021 revealed that more than seven million tonnes of sewage was being dumped each year in its rivers and seas.
Josh Harris, head of communications at SAS, criticised water firms for overseeing “decades of mismanagement, all the while syphoning off tens of billions to shareholders and paying the fat cats at the top huge pay and bonuses.”
Commenting on the announcement about an investment to upgrade sewage systems, he added: “Why should we trust them?”