To put things right, the industry is planning to make the largest ever investment in storm overflows as part of a major programme to reduce spills.
If approved by regulators, water companies aim to deliver a massive transformation programme across 350,000 miles of sewer.
A detailed National Overflows Plan will be published later this summer, explaining each company’s approach to improving their overflows.
In it the firms will detail plans to install the equivalent of thousands of new Olympic swimming pools to hold surges in rainwater that would otherwise overload the system;
They will also increase the capacity of sewage treatment works, allowing them to treat higher volumes of rainfall and sewage;
The massive spend will also see work to improve the sewer network by enlarging and improving pipes, allowing them to safely carry more sewage during peak times, and fixing misconnected pipes from properties.
Ruth Kelly, Chair of Water UK, said: “The message from the water and sewage industry today is clear: we are sorry. More should have been done to address the issue of spillages sooner and the public is right to be upset about the current quality of our rivers and beaches.
“We have listened and have an unprecedented plan to start to put it right. This problem cannot be fixed overnight, but we are determined to do everything we can to transform our rivers and seas in the way we all want to see.”