FINES issued to water companies including South West Water are to be pumped back into local water projects. 

The crackdown on water firms will see millions of pounds reinvested to improve the water environment with the launch of the Water Restoration Fund. 

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay has announced that up to £11million from water company fines and penalties will be used to fund the improvements and benefit areas where fines have been issued. 

This includes the £2.15 million paid by South West Water. 

All water company environmental fines and penalties since April 2022 have been ringfenced to directly improve the water environment.

The Water Restoration Fund will offer grant funding on a competitive basis to support local groups, farmers and landowners and community-led schemes, bolstering their capacity and capabilities for on-the-ground projects to improve the water environment. This could include activities that improve biodiversity and community access to blue and green spaces in areas where water companies have been issued with fines or penalties. 

This delivers on the government’s long-term plan to clean up our waters and make polluters pay for the damage they cause to the environment.

The launch follows action taken in recent months to hold water companies to account, including a ban on bonuses for water company executives where firms have committed serious criminal breaches, subject to Ofwat consultation, and plans to quadruple the Environment Agency’s regulatory capacity, enabling them to carry out 4,000 water company inspections by the end of this financial year.   

These penalties and fines are additional to any reparations that water companies make when they have breached environmental regulations. 

Mr Barclay said: ‘I know how important our precious waterways are to local communities and to nature, which is why we’re taking tough action to ensure our regulators are well-equipped to hold those who pollute them to account. 

‘Through the Water Restoration Fund, I will be making sure that money from fines and penalties, taken from water company profits only, is channelled directly back into our waterways. 

‘Community-led projects are vital to improving and maintaining water quality across the country, and this fund will help build on that success.’

The fund will be open to a range of organisations in England, including farmers and landowners, eNGOs, Local Authorities, catchment partnerships, National Parks and National Landscapes.  

Applicants will have an eight-week window to apply with grant awards expected to be issued from late July.