AN annual survey that measures trust in water companies has revealed public opinion is at an all-time low for United Utilities. 

The Consumer Council for Water has published the results of last year's 'Water Matters' survey, which has measured household customers' views on their water and sewage services since 2011. 

Customers were asked to what extent they trust their water company on a scale of 1 to 10 from 'do not trust them at all' to 'trust them completely.' The survey measured trust over a ten-year trend. 

The Mail: Public trust in United Utilities is at all time low, according to the surveyPublic trust in United Utilities is at all time low, according to the survey (Image: Callum Hill (Unsplash))

In 2020 United Utilities (UU) was ranked at 8.09, which was its highest-performing year in the last decade, but it dropped to 6.62 in just three years. 

Last year the water company opened an Information Centre in Windermere. Clean water campaign group Save Windermere protests outside it every Monday and has given stickers for businesses to use to show support.

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Windermere and Bowness Town councillor Peter Cook said: "UU opened their office, I don't think it gets many people in."

He said based on the number of Save Windermere stickers in shops he 'would guess most people' in the area does not trust UU. 

Cllr Cook said he supported a Lake Annecy solution for Windermere, which would remove all sewage discharges from the lake. 

The Mail: Save Windermere's weekly protest outside the United Utilities Information Centre Save Windermere's weekly protest outside the United Utilities Information Centre (Image: Matt Staniek)

UU said this would require up to 15 years, a new treatment works and 67km of new pipeline around the lake.

The publishing of the report comes at the same time as a BBC report revealed that United Utilities illegally pumped sewage into Windermere for 10 hours in February because of a faulty pumping station in Bowness. 

The water company pinned this 'unexpected fault' on a third-party telecoms cable network in the area, which they were not notified about. 

A spokesperson said: “As soon as we discovered this fault was affecting the Glebe Road pumping station, our engineers took urgent steps to resolve the situation and we informed the Environment Agency within an hour of the pollution being confirmed.”

On the issue of trust, the spokesperson added: "Like any industry, occasionally things go wrong, and if that happens we work hard to put it right.  The water industry continues to find itself in the spotlight and we recognise that there is work to do in restoring public confidence and trust.  

"In the last 12 months we have delivered strong performance across a number of our commitments for customers. We have been ranked as the number one water and sewerage company for customer service in the independent UK Customer Service Index."

They said that UU is proposing an investment programme 'not seen on this scale for a century' totalling £13.7 billion if accepted by regulator OFWAT. 

The company reported an underlying operating profit of £517.8 million for 2023/24, an increase of £77 million from the previous year.