South West Water’s owner has abandoned its goal of a four-star environmental performance rating this year after admitting it would fail to hit the target.

Owner Pennon Group said it did not think it would achieve the result, blaming “current operating conditions”.

The environmental performance ratings reflect how well water companies protect the environment, with four stars being the top mark. Three stars reflect a good performance, two recommends improvements, while one star is the lowest.

In a statement, Pennon said: “Whilst six of the seven environmental performance assessment (EPA) metrics are tracking positively towards four-star equivalent performance, current operating conditions have meant the benefits of our pollution incident reduction plan will not be seen until 2025.”

It added: “significantly increased wastewater flows have impacted our.. performance for wastewater pollutions and use of storm overflows”.

In effect, the company attributed a 50 per cent increase in rainfall during the second half of 2023, including 10 storms since September and 12 yellow weather warnings, for its inability to meet the performance target.

However, SWW representatives already suspected that the company might be unable to achieve a four-star rating as early as August 2023, well before the winter rains.

Alan Burrows, SWW’s director of environmental liaison and culture, told a public meeting in Kingsbridge at the time that the aim was to achieve the target by 2025 “at the latest”.

Since the end of 2023, water companies have been required to monitor 100 per cent of storm overflows. During that time there have been multiple incidents involving sewage spills, which SWW has largely blamed on flooding, while suggesting residents who flush wet wipes and sanitary items down the toilet were also to blame for the problem.

Last month, East Devon District Council (EDDC) passed a motion of no confidence in SWW, prompted by “major pipe failures and sewage overflows into the sea” which had caused “extensive disruption to residents”.

The news comes a week after South Hams District Council leader Julian Brazil urged people to not pay their water rates if SWW failed to commit itself to massively upgrading the sewage pipe network.