Wales’s largest water company, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, has been downgraded to a two-star (requires improvement) rating following a further decline in environmental performance outlined in Natural Resources Wales’ annual review.

Following a disappointing performance in 2021, the report reveals that pollution incidents rose by 7% in 2022, with those having a high or significant impact rising from three to five.

The company also failed to make improvements to the number of incidents self-reported to Natural Resources Wales, falling to 65%, a decrease of 7% from 2021. Water companies are expected to self-report incidents to NRW before others do. Without a rapid response, the impact of pollution can escalate and the opportunity for mitigation measures can be lost.

In 2022, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water caused 89 sewage pollution incidents. 84 of these were categorised as having a low environmental impact. Five incidents were classed as having a high or significant impact.

Developing an enforcement response for major environmental incidents requires detailed investigation and can take many months to conclude, but NRW is committed to doing this.

In response, Natural Resources Wales has called for a ‘step change in performance that is so clearly needed and called for by us and the public.’

Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of NRW said:

“It is very disappointing that Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water’s performance has continued to decline. 

“Water companies need to take urgent and sustained action to make the changes needed to address the significant pollution incidents we are seeing in our waters.

“In the face of the climate and nature emergencies, the need to act now is ever more important, as our ageing sewer network comes under greater pressure.

“Without sufficient investment and a strong performance management framework from water companies, the environment will continue to pay the price. In our meetings with Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water we have been very clear about the improvements they must deliver.”

Expectations for improvements are outlined in the report, including a requirement to reduce the number of sewerage pollution incidents year on year, stop all significant pollution incidents and reverse the decline in the self-reporting of incidents.

The performance of Hafren Dyfrdwy, supplier of drinking water and wastewater services to parts of north east and mid Wales, has also been reviewed but is not subject to a star rating due to its relatively small operating area in Wales.

The company was found to have made improvements in the number of pollution incidents, from eight in 2021 to four in 2022, reporting no significant pollution incidents.

But NRW is still pressing the company to improve its rate of self-reporting incidents, after the company only self-reported two out of four incidents, compared with six out of eight incidents in 2021.

The reports are available to view in full on the Natural Resources Wales website.