Severn Trent admitted yesterday it had a long way to go to rebuild battered public confidence after a scandal-hit year.
The Birmingham-based water a nd waste company has acknowledged overcharging customers by #42 million while it is currently being investigated by regulator Ofwat about its handling of customer information and complaints.
A Serious Fraud Office investigation is also under way into allegations the firm, which employs 600 people at its head office in Sheldon, falsified its leakage figures in order to increase water charges.
And, in what has been a bleak year for the company, the leakages from its pipe network had risen to around 100 million gallons a day.
Severn Trent, which raised the annual charge for its four million customers by 15.2 per cent last April, blamed the weather for the extra three per cent, or 17 million litres of water lost every day.
Tony Wray, managing director of Severn Trent Water, said: "Our reputation has been damaged, we lost the confidence of the public and the regulator.
"We still have a long way to go to rebuild public confidence in us. You do not go through fundamental issues like we did and then assume they are going to get fixed overnight.
"We will have to work hard to deliver high quality service, keeping prices as low as possible, fix the leaks and restore the confidence of the regulator.
"I would never say never, but hopefully there won't be any more horror stories."
On a brighter note, in the year to March 31, Severn Trent reported an 18 per cent increase in pretax profits to #270 million on the back of a 13.9 per cent rise in turnover to #2.29 billion.
Mr Wray said: "That is good, but it is important for our customers to know that for every #1 in dividend, we are investing #3 in our networks.
"Capital investments in this industry are huge and we borrow the money to do it. But we have to pay that back.
"If the customers had to find the money up front, the prices would be exorbitant."
Mr Wray said the average household price of supplying water and taking away sewerage was 73p per day, which he said represented "phenomenal value for money".
But the Consumer Council for Water was less than impressed, adding complaints against the country's second-biggest listed water company were up around 55 per cent in the past year.
Mr Wray said: "Leakage is very important and we are focused on reducing it. We are up slightly on last year, but between now and 2009/10 we will be spending #200 million on mains replacement.
"We will go above and beyond what they expect to get the leakage down."
The company gave no indication as to the timing or financial impact of any decision regarding the SFO investigation.
Mr Wray, who took up his post in March 2005, said: "It is impossible to say when this will end, these sorts of investigations are long and complex.
"We are a completely new leadership team. We have gone through with very rigorous checks on all our controls to get into a programme of continuous improvement.
"It was through this process that we went to Ofwat when we identified irregularities in the way customer information was being handled.
"We have submitted an interim report to Ofwat and that is being worked through at the moment."
Andrew Marsh of the Consumer Council for Water said while big profits were no bad thing, value for money should be priority.
"People are paying more, and when you pay more you expect to get a better service. But that doesn't seem to be happening at Severn Trent."