UK's Ofwat asks water companies to use storm overflows more carefully

June 18 (Reuters) - Britain's water regulator on Friday threatened to act against water companies that do not have measures in place to monitor storm overflows during periods of heavy rainfall.

The intervention is the regulator's latest in a string of measures targeting British water companies that have faced fines in recent years for polluting water bodies and not preventing water wastage and been ordered to lower shareholder payouts.

It follows concerns around the increased use of storm overflows and its possible impact on waterways and local communities, the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) said in a statement.

Storm overflows act as pressure-relief valves inside sewers during wet weather, allowing excess stormwater to be released into rivers or the sea. They can sometimes cause wastewater to be released into rivers.

"Ofwat is seeking specific assurance that water company Boards are closely monitoring performance, using the right data, and providing the appropriate check and challenge on the use of storm overflows," the regulator said.

Ofwat, which oversees the water and sewerage industry in England and Wales, said it could take action against companies that do not have the right measures in place.

Christine McGourty, who heads Water UK - a membership organisation representing major water and wastewater service providers in Britain, said the group was working with Ofwat and others to ensure water companies speed up investments to meet people's expectations for river water quality.

"We are asking the Government to make some simple changes to the Environment Bill, currently going through Parliament," she said in a statement.

"These would reduce the impact of wet wipes, which often block sewers and cause overflows, and help overloaded systems by keeping rainwater out of them."

Thames Water, Pennon (PNN.L), United Utilities (UU.L) and Severn Trent (SVT.L), among the UK's largest water companies, did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli

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