Dirty Money FAQs

Dig into the details of our Dirty Money Petition

Our petition is now shut but follow this page for more details of the campaign

The definition of a dividend is a distribution of profits to company shareholders. When a corporation earns a profit or surplus, it is able to pay a portion of the profit as a dividend to shareholders.

So why are water companies paying out dividends when they made a loss?

Sewage overflows, sometimes referred to as storm overflows, combined sewage overflows (CSO) or pumping stations, are part of our sewerage infrastructure owned and maintained by water companies. They are designed to discharge untreated wastewater in exceptional periods of heavy rainfall to stop sewage backing up into people’s homes.

However, water companies are regularly using sewage overflows more than they should to dispose of raw sewage causing dangerous levels of pollution in the ocean and inland waterways.

In 2022 they discharged 300,953 times. 

Polluted waters represent a major threat to the welfare of our wildlife and the long-term future of our ecosystems, as well as our own health and wellbeing.

Millions of infectious microorganisms are present in every cubic metre of untreated wastewater dumped into the sea. It’s no shock then that swimming in contaminated waters is known to increase the risk of gastroenteritis as well as sinus infections, skin rashes, and conjunctivitis.

Our Water Quality Report, uncovered over 700 water users who got sick after entering the water. These were reports submitted on our SSRS app and/or health reports submitted on our website form. With the amount of illness reported being only from people who told us they were unwell, the actual figure for last year is probably much higher!

Water companies are forcing us to decide if taking care of our mental health is worth the risk of getting sick, and they are eroding our connection to blue spaces and nature.

We know not all UK water companies are privatised. Scottish Water and Northern Ireland Water are still publicly owned and Welsh Water (Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water) is a non-profit. But we all still share the same ocean and many of our waterways are connected – so this petition may be more relevant to you than you realise.

Do you think English water companies should get away with stuffing their pockets while repeatedly sullying our shared waters?

Whether English water company finances concern you or not, we all pay into the UK sewage system and we all deserve to know where our money is going. As part of the petition, in our call to REVEAL, we’re demanding transparency. It’s time the water companies across the UK lifted the lid on exactly what they are spending our hard earned cash on.

This is our biggest petition yet, and with good reason. To challenge Ofwat, the water companies and government we need the power of the public and we need you. Your signature and every single signature you help us collect means we’re one step closer to holding the polluters to account and finally putting a stop to the damaging practices of water companies that have left our waterways laid to ruin.

We need to raise our collective voice to let the regulator Ofwat know that what they are letting water companies get away with is not ok.

UK privatised water companies (those in England and Wales) are regulated by Ofwat.

Ofwat have recently required water companies to link their dividend payments to their environmental performance. But the plans to make this link will use self-reported annual sewage discharges as the benchmark for environmental performance. This is a poor measure and ignores the fact that the majority of water companies are not achieving minimum environmental regulations.

Water companies must not be awarding dividends and bonuses when they are not compliant with environmental regulations or failing financially. They also do not include CEOs in this requirement. CEOs and shareholders must never be able to profit from pollution.

That’s why we’re calling for a cap on CEO bonuses and an end to shareholders taking out dividends until environmental regulations are met.

You can find more information on each water company and their disgustingly bad environmental performances in our Water Quality Report.

You can also find out more details on our Dirty Money Petition pages here.


This is our biggest petition yet so we your help in sharing it across the UK. Click share to post the petition on your social media pages.

You could also take part in local action in your area. To find out what else is going on near you, contact your regional rep through our website.

You might also want to attend one of our national days of action. This year we will be coming together, making our voices heard and demanding an end to water companies ruining our rivers and ocean. Keep an eye on our website and social media pages for more information in the coming weeks.

You could sign up for SAS membership and fuel our fight to protect the ocean alongside thousands of Ocean Activists around the UK.

Or you could get in touch!

We love to hear from you about the action you’re taking for the ocean. If you have any questions, want to discuss an idea, or have a story to share, drop us a line.

Get in touch via social media at:
@sascampaigns on twitter
@surfersagainstsewage on Instagram

Or email us at:
[email protected]