The UK water sector is monitored and controlled by government-appointed regulators who report each year on standards and progress.
Water is tightly regulated in four ways:
• finance and economics
• environmental impact
• drinking water quality
• health and safety
Finance and economics
In England and Wales the Office of Water Services (Ofwat) has the duty to protect customers’ interests while ensuring that the water companies finance and carry out their functions properly. Ofwat also sets water prices. For Scottish Water, this duty lies with the Water Commissioner; in Northern Ireland it is met by government.
The water industry depends upon the natural environment in order to provide water and recycle wastewater. In Northern Ireland environmental impact is regulated by the Department of the Environment, in Scotland via the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and in England and Wales by the Environment Agency.
Drinking water quality
As well as the many thousands of tests for drinking water quality carried out by the water companies themselves, supplies are continually monitored to EU and UK standards – by a department of government in Northern Ireland, the Drinking Water Quality Regulator in Scotland and the Drinking Water Inspectorate in England and Wales.
Health and safety
Within the workplace, government health and safety regulators ensure protection of people – the Health and Safety Executive of Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Commission in Britain.
Non-government agencies, including consumer organisations and environmental stakeholders, also play a large part in informing water policy and practice across the sector.