Sewage-dumping water chiefs rake in record pay claims

1 Dec 2023

Water companies are making huge profits whilst filling our water with sewage - the Lib Dems are fighting back.

The same water companies that dump raw untreated sewage into our waterways, and who have been chronically under-investing in our water infrastructure for years have been racking up truly eye-watering pay and bonuses for their executives.

As reported in The Times in November, base pay for leaders at ten water firms in England and Wales totalled £10.05 million this year, up from £9.17 million the year before, and additional bonuses at some companies were even higher. Severn Trent Water paid out almost 3x as much in executive bonuses than base pay.

This industry is a gravy train where both sewage and cash flow freely. It is a national scandal that execs are stuffing their pockets whilst our rivers and lakes are destroyed, a practice the Conservatives have practically legalised while in office.

Here in Norwich, sewage discharge was spotted flowing through the Wensum River in the middle of the city centre in September, and in 2019-20, 16hrs-worth of sewage was dumped into a 2-mile stretch upstream. The water companies have proposed to charge ratepayers the cost of cleaning up their rotten mess. The average bill is set to rise 31% by 2030.


The Lib Dems nationally are calling for a ban on bonuses for executives in the water industry and for these companies to be wound up and reformed into public interest bodies. At our Autumn conference we renewed our commitment to protecting our environment and tackling the crisis facing our natural world. 
We are calling for meaningful action to reverse the decline in our natural environment by:
•    Halting sewage discharges by mandating major sewage infrastructure upgrades as well as reducing other river pollution and setting new ‘blue flag’ regulations.
•    Halting the decline in nature by 2030 and ‘doubling nature’ by 2050. We would do this by doubling the amount of land that is protected and managed for nature, doubling the area of the most important habitats and doubling species abundance.
•    Reforming the planning system to ensure decisions are compatible with nature’s recovery and climate change mitigation and designating more areas for wildlife.
•    Introducing a ‘Right to Nature’, establishing everyone’s right to healthy air, clean water and access to nature.
•    Introducing an Environment and Wellbeing Budget, focused on ensuring we are a country that is rich in nature.

Read more about our plans and sign the petition at

Lib Dems call for compensation for sewage sickness victims

March 2024:

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a compensation scheme to be introduced on behalf of swimmers and pet owners or those that have been sick after swimming in dirty water. The party has tabled a motion in the House of Lords calling for greater regulation of private water companies after a recent report by Surfers against Sewage found that 1924 people fell ill after entering water between October 2022 and September 2023. This was three times greater than the number reported the previous year.

Brian Watkins, the Lib Dem Leader on Norfolk County Council, said that he was appalled by the findings.

Cllr Brian Watkins

Cllr Brian Watkins, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Norfolk

‘‘It is an utter disgrace that the situation has been allowed to deteriorate so rapidly in recent years. Not only is this putting off people from swimming in rivers, it is also having a huge detrimental effect on our wildlife. In our own county of Norfolk, Anglian Water needs to do far more to address ongoing public concern about sewage spillages into the River Wensum. The Liberal Democrats have exposed the sewage scandal nationally and now we are demanding compensation for those who have been affected.’’ 

There are approximately 40 rivers with protected habitats in England and none are in overall good health. These include the River Wensum which is a designated site of special scientific interest (SSSI) along its entire length. The river has excessive phosphate concentrations at all points with rapid growth of certain plants and algae that damage habitats.

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