Water privatisation in England and Wales remains controversial. A 2001 study by the Public Services International Research Unit stated that
tariffs increased by 46% in real terms during the first nine years,
operating profits have more than doubled (+142%) in eight years,
investments were reduced and
public health was jeopardised through cut-offs for non-payment, however, this was made illegal in 1998 along with prepayment meters and 'trickle valves'.
At privatisation the industry's £4.95 billion debt was written off. Privatisation critics argued in 1997 that infrastructure—particularly sewers—was not adequately maintained and that OFWAT implicitly "gave (its) approval to running down the underground network". Furthermore, OFWAT was accused of not comparing company performance with targets, not relating performance standards with past or projected levels of investment, failing to "publish information in a consistent form" and not requesting that levels of service indicators become mandatory. Instead company licenses were renegotiated to address performance issues. The critics concluded that in the "conflict between making profits and providing a certain level of services" the legislation "resolves it in favor of profit".
It was alleged that the consequences of the 1988 Camelford water pollution incident were covered up partly because prosecution would "render the whole of the water industry unattractive to the City".