The last year has been an important and challenging one for the water industry. As we publish our annual review, I wanted to take the time to reflect on the successes and learnings of the last 12 months while looking forward to 2019/20 and beyond.
Along with many other industries 2018/19 was dominated by the uncertainty of Brexit. As a sector it was vital we took steps to ensure we were adequately prepared for any impacts Brexit might bring. Water UK helped mobilise one of the largest cross-sector initiatives since privatisation and since September 2018 we have project managed a formal programme for dealing with the UK’s exit from the EU.
The weather tested us as well, with both the ‘Beast from the East’ and the summer heatwave providing a stern challenge for water companies. By taking actions such as reducing leakage and promoting efficient use of water, companies were able to minimise interruptions to customers’ supplies.
We know more can be done, which is why we at Water UK are working with companies to understand what worked well and what can be improved, developing new, innovative approaches to ensure customers get the access they need despite extreme weather.
Away from those challenges, there were significant developments in ensuring customers get the help they need with our work on Priority Services. To drive this forward Water UK is assisting with the roll-out of a link-up between the water and energy sectors to identify customers in vulnerable circumstances, in a way that makes it easier for those customers to get the help they need.
Our drive to cut plastic pollution continued with a further extension of the Refill free drinking water initiative to thousands of points across the nation. We also took a major step forward in the fight against fatbergs and other sewer blockages with the launch of the industry’s new flushability specification, known as ‘Fine to Flush.’
Looking to the future, the recently released ‘Manifesto for Water’ set out an ambitious new vision for the 2020s. More recently, the sector reaffirmed its pledge to work in the public interest with the release of the ‘Public Interest Commitment.’ As part of this pledge water companies agreed to work towards five challenging longer-term, broader goals to reduce leakage and promote social and environmental progress.
The year gone has certainly been an eventful one and there is nothing to suggest the next 12 months will be any less demanding. We believe passionately that water companies can make a positive contribution to addressing some of the difficult issues we face while also delivering a key public service.
We will continue to work with our members and key stakeholders to meet these challenges head-on while continuing to build on the good work already undertaken to ensure that we at Water UK and the wider industry deliver on our priorities.