The charges stem from the company’s extraction of 22 billion litres of water from Lancashire boreholes, a volume comparable to filling 8,800 Olympic swimming pools, the EA has said.
The unauthorised abstraction took place during a period of particularly dry weather in 2018, placing additional stress on the environment and contributing to a substantial drop in the water level of the Fylde Aquifer.
Officials said the aquifer, a subterranean reservoir crucial for sustaining healthy river flows and serving as a vital public water source, now faces a prolonged recovery period, with restoration expected to span years.
Carol Holt, Environment Agency Area Director for Lancashire, said: “While water companies are allowed to abstract water from the environment, over-abstraction, especially during times of prolonged dry weather, has damaging impacts on our environment.”
Water Minister Rebecca Pow said: “It is absolutely right that companies that harm our environment are held to account by the courts, as has happened with United Utilities today.
“Through our Plan for Water we are driving forward work to improve our water system and deliver the change people want to see – including tougher enforcement, tighter regulation of water companies and increased investment.”