Dirty Money campaign

Water companies profit from pollution. It’s time for that to change.

The UK’s privatised water companies have spent decades getting rich off the sewage system. They’re paying out millions to CEOs and shareholders while letting the sewerage network crumble into disrepair. And people and planet are paying the price.

Enough is enough. We can’t stand by and watch industry fat-cats profit off another summer of sewage. Hundreds of thousands of you signed our Dirty Money petition. Thank you. Watch our hand-in below and stay tuned for more campaign updates.

Campaign updates

We received Ofwat’s official response to our Dirty Money petition, in which they addressed all four pillars of the campaign and action that they were/ would be taking. We also received a commitment to continue the dialogue with senior leaders at Ofwat and will be pushing them to go further and faster to meet our demands.

1. Cap water company executive bonuses
Since the launch of the petition, Ofwat announced new measures to ensure that executive bonus payments take account of water companies’ performance for customers and the environment. Regular reviews of this will be conducted, and if expectations are not met, customers will not fund these bonuses.

2. Ensure no shareholder dividends are paid out unless water companies comply with environmental regulations

Ofwat highlighted the recent modification of company licenses to better safeguard their financial resilience. They state that these changes will better enable them to stop the payment of dividends if they would risk the company’s financial resilience, and to take enforcement action against water companies that do not take account of their performance – for customers and the environment – when deciding whether to pay dividends.

3. Enforce water company licences and permits

Ofwat highlighted that they currently have their largest ever enforcement investigation underway including open enforcement cases against six large wastewater companies. If they find that companies have failed to comply with obligations we are responsible for enforcing, then they will require them to take the action necessary to return to compliance, at their shareholders’ expense. Shareholders will also be required to pay any fines Ofwat  might impose on companies following the investigations.

4. Reveal how customer bills are spent

Ofwat stated they are actively working with water companies to improve transparency and provide customers with a clear understanding of how their money is utilised.

SAS representatives met with senior leaders at Ofwat to discuss our demands. Constructive meeting with agreement for more regular engagement around the campaign pillars.

After handing in our Dirty Money petition, signed by 173,046 Ocean Activists, to Ofwat HQ, we 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.


Dirty Money petition hand-in

Watch our Ocean Activists deliver your Dirty Money demands to Ofwat and the Fat Cat, Sewer Rats of the water industry.

Our demands:

Cap: We capped bankers’ bonuses. It’s time to do the same to the water company fat cats.

Comply: No shareholder pay-outs unless water companies comply with environmental regulations.

Enforce: OFWAT properly enforce their licences and stop water companies getting away with making their own rules.

Reveal: Our sewerage network is a public utility. It’s time to lift the lid on where our money is going.

These fat cat sewer rats are ripping us all off and it’s time we held them to account. But it will take all of us speaking out to make change happen. 

It’s time to tell them this shitshow is over. 

In 2022, water companies paid out £1.4bn to shareholders, all whilst dumping raw sewage into our rivers and seas for 1.75 million hours - or 825 times a day on average. It's a sewage scandal.