Southern Water Annual Report and Financial Statements 2021–22

our journey

Our Journey

Our journey of

We are committed to transparency and openness
with our customers and stakeholders

Resilience is at the centre of our strategy to become brilliant at the basics while transforming key areas of our business. We believe there is a substantial opportunity to adopt a more integrated approach to the way we deliver our services over the 2020–25 business plan period; using circular thinking to look at the bigger picture, and how we might collaborate with our peers and other industries to deliver joint solutions to some of our bigger challenges.

Improving our operational performance

A number of key strategic projects delivering improvements in network digitalisation, logistics and asset maintenance were agreed by the Southern Water Board in 2020, and programmes to deliver them are now well under way.

Asset maintenance

A well-operated and maintained asset system is critical for us to deliver on our vision.

This is why we have been working hard to get a better understanding of our assets by improving the data we capture. It means we can now be more proactive, creating detailed asset care plans for our sites.

beach chairs

Monitoring our bathing waters

To build on the success of our Beachbuoy bathing water monitoring service.

We are now working with local authorities and the Environment Agency to trial new real-time water quality testing technology at key points along our coastline.

machine going into pipe


More than 100 sewer-level sensors were trialled during 2021.

And in January 2022 we began the roll out of 22,000 of them across our network. This is allowing us to spot any weaknesses or failures so we can proactively fix issues before they impact our customers or the environment.

two people standing on beach


We are in the process of setting up a new logistics function.

That will ensure our field teams have access to the right equipment to maintain our assets, when and where they need it.

Changing and measuring our culture

two workers walking

We are focused on improving our performance, behaviours and compliance, building on our values, and this is reflected in our quarterly ‘measures of culture’ dashboard. Metrics such as levels of colleague engagement, integrity, understanding of our values and our Code of Ethics help to give us a routine temperature check and enable our leadership to take proactive steps to positively influence our culture.

We have focused on helping our employees connect with our purpose and values through regular Values Awareness Weeks and Star Awards over the past year. Our Learning and Development team has reviewed our manager training to incorporate practices and processes that further promote equality and diversity, and our customers and the environment sit at the heart of everything we do. Ethical business practice material has now been integrated into wider management training information, and a stand-alone module on ‘handling concerns’ has been developed and is being piloted.

Our Health, Safety, Security and Wellbeing team conducted a survey to better understand the needs and concerns of colleagues at every level of the business. The findings are now being used to update many of our existing processes and guidance documents.

In terms of improving governance, we have added an assessment of maturity in Ethical Business Practice to our Statement of Compliance return templates to our regulators, to encourage review and targeted focus. Our policies related to ‘business conduct’ have also been reviewed and this has led to the expansion of our Code of Ethics, while development of our Speak Up whistleblowing process has increased our focus on investigation and risk review.

We continue to work closely with the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) as we embed our ethical business practice and consolidate our threelines of defence assurance model. We have also consulted with the IBE on core aspects of our programmes including best practice on bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Reducing pollution incidents

river bank

We published our first Pollution Incident Reduction Plan (PIRP) in August 2020 and have just published our third PIRP update. The plan aims to significantly reduce the volume of pollution incidents. In total £145 million will be invested to improve performance and drive down pollutions to 2025.

Our PIRP has progressed from concept and team set up in year one, through a pilot phase in year two with multiple initiatives tried and tested, to targeted delivery in year three. There are currently three strategic programmes under way, which are driving improvements in terms of the digitisation of our network, updates to our control room, and planned preventative maintenance.

Many initiatives have become well embedded as part of business-as-usual including pollution awareness training programmes and the introduction of an operator framework aligned to external NVQ standards. The investigation team has been restructured to include a ‘human factors’ investigator, and considerable improvements have been made to processes to introduce more timely and accurate reporting of root cause analysis so immediate actions can be taken and built into future iterations of the plan.

There are five areas of focus for our year three PIRP; the most immediately impactful of which will be the ‘Top 250 Wastewater Pumping Station Upgrade’ and network cleaning programmes. The upgrade programme focuses on any site that has had a pollution incident in the past three years, with a forecast spend of £15 million.

Other areas of focus will be wastewater treatment works inlets, reducing pollutions from spills and so-called ‘black start’ programmes identifying issues with power outages on site.

Transparency and accountability

Our performance is independently scrutinised by a number of regulators including Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate. We supply these regulators and our wider stakeholders with regular updates throughout the year.