Activists protest at water industry awards as 173,046 back campaign demanding an end to profiting from pollution

  • 173,046 sign Surfers Against Sewage’s (SAS) ‘Dirty Money’ campaign, calling for an end to profiting from pollution
  • SAS activists stage ‘Fat Cats, Sewer Rats’ stunt outside the Water Industry Awards 2023, in Birmingham, as part of the campaign
  • Senior leaders at Ofwat have agreed to meet and discuss SAS’s demands on the oversight of water company finances

Today, Thursday 29th June, activists from the environmental charity, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), staged a stunt outside the Water Industry Awards 2023 to highlight how the poor financial management of water companies is a major contributor to the sewage pollution crisis.

The stunt, held outside the Water Industry Awards 2023, in Birmingham, saw SAS activists dress in sewer rat costumes and display a giant cheque, highlighting the £1.4bn paid out in shareholder dividends in 2022/23 and the 1.75 million hours of sewage dumped in 2022. The ‘Fat Cats, Sewer Rats’ stunt forms part of the charity’s ‘Dirty Money’ campaign, which demands an end to profiting from pollution in the water industry.

173,046 people have backed the ‘Dirty Money’ petition, with Surfers Against Sewage handing in the signatures to Ofwat, the water industry regulator, earlier today.  Senior leaders at the regulator have agreed to meet with the charity to discuss the campaign and its demands.

The charity developed the ‘Dirty Money’ campaign to fight for four key changes to the oversight of water company finances: a cap on chief executive bonuses; restricting shareholder pay-outs if water companies fail to comply with environmental regulations; the water industry regulator, Ofwat, to robustly enforce their licenses; and far greater transparency on water company finances.

The ‘Dirty Money’ campaign highlights that since privatisation the water industry has paid out an average of £2 billion a year in shareholder dividends whilst under-investing in the maintenance and improvement of the sewerage network. Last year, raw sewage raw sewage was dumped into rivers and seas 825 times a day on average.

Izzy Ross, Campaigns Manager at Surfers Against Sewage, said“As water companies stand on the precipice of collapse, we couldn’t miss this year’s industry awards and the opportunity to show the fat cat executives the scale of opposition to their profiteering. The greed of water company executives comes at a terrible cost to the health of both the environment and people. They swim in cash while we’re swimming in sewage.

“With more than 173,000 activists demanding an end to pollution for profit in the water industry the tide is turning on the sewage scandal and the polluters are rightly running scared.

“We’ve already secured a meeting with senior leaders at Ofwat to discuss our demands to crack down on dirty money in the water industry and we’re not going to stop fighting until we end sewage pollution for good.”

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