Southern Water

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Southern Water Services Ltd
Limited Company
IndustryWater industry
HeadquartersWorthing, West Sussex
Area served
Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Kent
Key people
  • Bill Tame (Chair)
  • Ian McAulay (CEO)
Production output
  • 0.529 Gl/day (drinking)
  • 0.730 Gl/day (recycled)
  • Increase£0.779 billion (2012–13)
  •     £0.716 billion (2011–12)
Number of employees
ParentSouthern Water Capital Ltd.
Tunbridge Wells South Wastewater Treatment Works

Southern Water is the private utility company responsible for the public wastewater collection and treatment in Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent, and for the public water supply and distribution in approximately half of this area. Some areas within the Southern Water region are supplied by a number of smaller water supply companies.

It is regulated under the Water Industry Act 1991


The Water Act 1973 resulted in the formation of the Southern Water Authority (SWA), taking the responsibility away from the local authorities. Nevertheless, the SWA maintained a regional management approach, retaining three separate regional headquarters:

The authority took over the assets and duties of the following water undertakings:[1]

  • Hampshire River Authority
  • Sussex River Authoritiy
  • Kent River Authority (except the area draining into the Thames above Greenhithe)
  • Brighton Corporation
  • Hastings Corporation
  • Southampton Corporation
  • Tunbridge Wells Corporation
  • Winchester Corporation
  • Worthing Corporation
  • Isle of Wight River and Water Authority
  • Medway Water Board
  • North West Sussex Water Board
  • Thanet Water Board

In 1989 the UK's water industry was privatised, and Southern Water Services Ltd. came into existence. The company was subsequently purchased in a hostile takeover bid by Scottish Power. Southern Water assets were considerably impacted during the period under Scottish Power. During this period, the bulk of in-house scientific laboratory services and assets were shut down, dismantled and sold off. In 2002, Scottish Power sold the company.

In October 2007, Greensands Investments Limited purchased Southern Water Capital Limited, the owners of Southern Water Services Limited.

Southern Water today[edit]

The three main office buildings continue to be used for the administration and management of the company, along with a newer building in the West Durrington area of Worthing, West Sussex, which is the company's registered headquarters and houses the company's call centre and control centre.

Today the company supplies drinking water to roughly one million households through its 95 water supply works and 13,700 kilometres of water mains. Wastewater is treated by the company's network of 370 wastewater treatment works and almost 40,000 kilometres of sewers. Also, the treatment of sludge results in a nutrient-rich granulated fertiliser which the company sells to the farming industry.

Southern Water has also opened up some of their activities to the public. This includes the company running guided tours of the Victorian sewers of Brighton and Hove and public access to Bewl Water, one of the largest reservoirs in England.

Legal issues[edit]

In 2007 Southern Water was fined £20.3 million for 'deliberate misreporting' and failing to meet guaranteed standards of service to customers. Southern Water Chief Executive Les Dawson said: "Today's announcement draws a line under a shameful period in the company's history".[2]

In 2011 Southern Water Ltd was fined £25,000 when sewage flooded into Southampton water.

The company was ordered to pay £10,000 in fines and costs after sewage seeped into a stream at Beltinge in Kent[3]

A leak of sewage from Southern Water's plant at Hurstpierpoint pumping station, West Sussex, lead to fines and costs of £7,200 in 2011.[4]

Southern Water was fined £50,000 in April 2011 for two offences relating to unscreened discharges into Langstone Harbour, Hampshire, between November 2009 and April 2010.

In June 2010 Southern Water was fined £3,000 after it admitted polluting 2 km of a Sussex stream with raw sewage, killing up to a hundred brown trout and devastating the fish population for the second time in five years. Crawley Magistrates' Court heard that the Environment Agency received calls from members of the public after dead fish were seen in the Sunnyside Stream in East Grinstead on 30 August 2009.[5]

In November 2014 Southern Water were fined £500,000 and agreed to pay costs of £19,224 at Canterbury Crown Court after an Environment Agency investigation found that untreated sewage was discharged into the Swalecliffe Brook, polluting a 1.2 kilometre stretch of the watercourse and killing local wildlife. (

In December 2016 Southern Water was fined a record £2,000,000 for flooding beaches in Kent with raw sewage, leaving them closed to the public for nine days. The Environment Agency called the event “catastrophic”, while the judge at Maidstone crown court said that Southern Water’s repeat offending was “wholly unacceptable”. The company apologised unreservedly, as it did when fined £200,000 in 2013 for similar offences. Due to health concerns, Thanet district council was forced to close beaches for nine consecutive days, including the Queen’s diamond jubilee bank holiday weekend. (The Guardian, 19 December 2016)


Southern Water is investing £1.8 billion in its assets between 2010 and 2015. This will maintain high quality supplies of drinking water to customers as well as the quality of the environment through safeguarding discharges from wastewater treatment works across Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. The investment is broken down as follows:

  • £230 million water resources and growth
  • £510 million environmental improvements
  • £676 million to maintain water and sewage treatment works
  • £250 million to maintain water mains and sewers
  • £24 million flooding and service improvements

Work in the community[edit]

Southern Water has an extensive sponsorship programme for charities, schools and community groups which includes:

  • The Learn to Swim scheme which has helped teach more than 600,000 children to swim since it began in 1992
  • A Community Volunteering Programme which allows employees to spend two days paid leave working for their chosen charity or community project each year
  • Awarding grants to a wide range of organisations and community groups for environmental projects and other initiatives
  • Holding major fundraising events like the annual Charity Race Day which has raised £390,000 for good causes since 2007
  • Offering free educational talks to schools and community groups about the water cycle, water treatment and water for health


  1. ^ The Southern Water Authority Constitution Order 1973 (1973 No. 1361)
  2. ^ "Ofwat :: Regulating the Industry :: Enforcement :: Enforcement action :: Southern Water: customer service". Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  3. ^ "Southern Water fined after Herne Bay homes flooded with sewage". 6 March 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Southern Water fined £7,200 for pollution after pump failure". 23 August 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  5. ^ "Southern Water fined for polluting river with raw sewage". 5 July 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2012.

External links[edit]