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from Water UK

theView from Water UK
30 May 2008


Increasing links between people and the water environment

Source 2008, the national water symposium held at Lancaster House in London on 29 May, was attended by Defra Secretary of State Hilary Benn and 200 representatives of business and public service interests throughout the country.

Building on similar events in 2004 and 2006, Source participants took up the challenges of climate change, growing expectations about security of supply and service resilience, and the availability of capital for continuing investment.

Water UK Chief Executive Pamela Taylor spoke of the importance of restoring people's sense of involvement with the water environment for meeting future policy goals.

Exploring this theme through three challenges identified in Source 2008 - climate change, consumer expectations, and finance - Pamela Taylor said:

"The people we serve must play a bigger part in the decisions we make. There needs to be a more informed and interactive relationship between the public and water services."

"We have a great opportunity to achieve this. More and more people are becoming aware of the economic importance of the environment. People are actually beginning to understand that 'this could really affect me and my family'".

Pamela Taylor Full Speech

Water UK press release

Water Framework Directive

River basin guidance clearer on pollution

The water industry is pleased that Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government are taking steps to provide clarity and direction to the Environment Agency in implementing the Water Framework Directive.

The guidance recognises that improvement schemes may have to be undertaken by sectors other than the polluter (in what Defra calls a deviation from the Polluter Pays Principle). However, where this is necessary, there should be full and open justification.

Unfortunately neither guidance nor impact assessment faces up to the effect of increasing water bills on low-income families, particularly in certain parts of the country. Equally, they do not represent a fair and transparent picture of the expected costs and benefits.

Water UK press release

Water UK response

Defra and Welsh Assembly Government consultation on Volume 2 of the river basin planning guidance and updated impact assessment

Contact: Steve Ntifo


Ofwat review – on the right track

Ofwat has issued the last building block of the extensive review of water competition it started at the end of 2006.

It is a wide-ranging consultation document looking at the water and sewerage industries – beyond the single vertically-integrated supply chains for water and sewerage and beyond the current Water Supply Licensing regime.

Ofwat considers the potentially contestable markets which make up these supply chains alongside the core monopoly transportation activities which it will continue to need to regulate and, predictably, advocates separation of the latter from the former.

While this is not new, Ofwat’s approach has the benefit now of being placed in the context of Defra’s strategy document ‘Future Water’, and its consultation focuses more than in the past on the innovative benefits of efficient competition.

Water UK supports the principle that competition is a means to an end and will respond positively. Another welcome departure is that Ofwat’s consultation runs over slightly more than three months, albeit over the summer period!

Water UK press release

Policy background

Contact: Jeanne Golay


Benefits of efficient companies are shared with customers

The Consumer Council for Water last week called upon water companies to "give more back" to customers. Within the regulatory system that sets water prices, companies have succeeded in doing exactly that.

Water companies are required to meet service and environmental standards as efficiently as possible. If they succeed in keeping costs below the level assumed by Ofwat, the benefits are passed on to customers in various ways.

Indeed, today's average water bill would be £100 higher without the efficiency savings made by the companies, says Ofwat.

Water UK agrees that the industry has a duty to explain to customers what they receive and what they can expect for their money. Water companies strive to improve communication with consumers on all aspects of water services, including financial reporting.

Companies are determined to continue their drive for increased efficiency and to attract the long-term financing the industry relies upon to maintain and improve the quality of our tap water, our environment and our vital infrastructure.

Water companies prepare to report financial results for 2007-08

Background briefing

Contact: Barrie Clarke

Drinking water

Online guide to looking after water

This month saw the launch of the Water UK online consumer guide Looking after water in your home, designed to help everyone get the full benefit of tap water at the point of use.

Unlike most other products, tap water does not come with instructions for use and storage. The electronic booklet fills this gap by providing advice on how to look after water on the inside and outside of the home.

A few simple actions can help everyone maintain the excellent quality and taste of tap water and save money by avoiding all-too-common problems.

Along with household tips, the easy-to-use guide (and downloadable pdf) provide answers relating to water and hygiene issues in the home.

View online booklet

Download pdf

Contact: Karen Thompson

Water resources

Groundwater – it's all part of the plan

The recent publication of draft water resource management plans for companies in England has highlighted some of the major challenges facing us all in this area over the next 25 years.

Growth, household and demographic changes, increased affluence and changing lifestyles, increasingly stringent environmental requirements, as well as climate change, are all adding to the pressure on water resources, particularly in those areas of the country where water is already ‘scarce’.

The 9th Annual UK Groundwater Forum conference earlier this month was an opportunity to debate these challenges and the proposed solutions. These include an enhanced focus on water efficiency, further leakage reduction, increased metering and new resources where appropriate, including from groundwater.

Companies are also seeking to factor carbon into planning and to maximise flexibility among different sources. The aim is to reduce vulnerability and risk to levels of service, which all agree are among the highest in the world.

Contact: Bruce Horton

Water resources planning - recognising a national asset

Water companies are consulting on water resource management plans for the next 25 years - evidence of one of the world's best water management regimes.

In the past few weeks water companies in England and Wales have published draft water resource management plans for comment by regulators, local authorities, development agencies, the public and each other.

Such plans have been produced, reviewed and updated consistently for nearly 10 years but never, until now, officially exposed to external evaluation.

The consultation follows a huge behind-the-scenes effort to comply with guidance on the what, how, who and how much of ensuring a supply-demand balance for the next quarter century. Will government and stakeholders recognise the depth of industry commitment to a critical national requirement?

In some areas of business such commitment is warmly welcomed. Your M&S, for example, has a plan – Plan A, a green initiative tricked out for the times "because there is no Plan B". Customer surveys show it is working.

Full Comment 14/05/08

Contact: Barrie Clarke


The state of the natural environment

Natural England has published a comprehensive assessment of the values, pressures and human responses to the pressures on England's natural environment.

Perhaps not since the Conservatives' quality of life commission published last year have we been offered so full a commentary on environmental themes. In truth the documents have little in common save for their authors' obvious sincerity in wishing to help us understand.

NE, the government's still newish chief nature adviser has succeeded in this mission. 300+ pages are well-edited and good use made of electronic signposting.

More important, the report shows NE remaining true to the fresh approach adopted when it emerged blinking somewhat from the merger of three predecessor groups in 2006. How "fresh"? By seeming to recognise that, while middle England loves Ratty and belongs to the RSPB, many of the rest of us might feel more involved if a more, let's say, practical view is taken of the value of nature.

State of the Natural Environment is a committed analysis of that value and the stronger for providing summaries of economic benefit throughout. Some of these are more convincing than others but always the sense is of an honest attempt to explain without going over the top.

Contact: Barrie Clarke


the View...

Expectations about a change of policy on fuel duty have focused gloom about the environment in economic downturns. This shouldn't be overdone. In many sectors - water is one - companies won't easily risk their credibility with customers and investors by going back on commitments. Also, the links between natural resource inputs and cost-saving efficiencies are hardly lost on successful firms.

At this week's national water symposium Water UK's Chief Executive said, "Being waterwise is an integral part of sustainable economic policy; it's not only about protecting habitats or other environmental goals". Short-term changes to strategy (national or corporate) are sometimes unavoidable, but seldom happen without some increase in medium-term risk to brand or bottom line.

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Related links

Published this month...

Looking after water in your home

Water UK press releases

Water companies prepare to report financial results for 2007-08 23/05/08

River basin guidance - Water UK response 23/05/08

Ofwat's review of competition 16/05/08

Looking after water in your home 09/05/08

EFRA Flooding Report - Water UK response 07/05/08

Water UK policy statements

Response to Defra and Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) consultation Volume 2 on river basin planning guidance

Response to Defra consultation on Surface Water Drainage

Response to Defra consultation on controls on phosphates in domestic laundry cleaning products