BRADFORD-based Yorkshire Water’s rating has been downgraded by the Environment Agency – with a warning the company “must do better”.

The agency’s annual environmental performance report for water companies said it was the “worst we have seen for years”, as serious pollution incidents increased to 62 in 2021, the highest total since 2013.

According to the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water saw five serious pollution incidents in 2021, an increase of two from the previous year.

The company was given a two-star rating, a decline from its four-star rating last year, which it had achieved for the first time since 2014.

Mike Dugher, Environment Agency Area Director for Yorkshire, said: “We’re disappointed that after last year’s encouraging four-star performance Yorkshire Water has this year been rated two stars, with water company performance across the country this year the worst we’ve seen.

“One serious pollution incident is one too many so to see five in Yorkshire this year is particularly disheartening. They must do better.”

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed with our Environmental Performance Assessment rating following a five-year period where we’ve continued to reduce pollution incidents and our impact on the environment.”

The spokesperson said the company understands there is “more to do” and environmental improvements form an “integral part” of its business plan for the future.

Across all water companies, there were eight of the very worst, category one, incidents, compared to three in 2020.

Measured against the agency’s four-star rating system for their environmental performance, most companies did much worse last year than in 2020, driven both by poorer performance and higher expectations.

Environment Agency chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd said: “It’s appalling that water companies’ performance on pollution has hit a new low.

“Water quality won’t improve until water companies get a grip on their operational performance.

“For years people have seen executives and investors handsomely rewarded while the environment pays the price.

“Company directors let this happen. We plan to make it too painful for them to continue like this.

“The amount a company can be fined for environmental crimes is unlimited but fines currently handed down by the courts often amount to less than a chief executive’s salary.

“We need courts to impose much higher fines. Investors should no longer see England’s water monopolies as a one-way bet.”

The agency is also calling for prison sentences for chief executives and board members whose companies are responsible for the worst spills, and for company directors to be struck off, so they cannot move on in their careers, after illegal environmental damage.