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New research shows water companies in England and Wales outperform comparable water sectors in Europe

Water companies in England and Wales perform better than their main European counterparts, according to a major new report out today (17 December 2018).

Leading international water industry experts Global Water Intelligence examined the quality of water and wastewater utilities in six European countries over the past 28 years, based on six key service performance indicators. They found that the water sector in England and Wales has outperformed those in France, Ireland, Italy and Spain since 1990 in terms of the most important measures on water and sewerage. In five of the six key performance measures – including water quality, customer service and costs – the English and Welsh water sector is either the top performer or the most improved. In the sixth measure – the quality of sewage treatment – the English and Welsh water sector is the second top performer.

The report found that the water sector in Germany delivers a broadly similar quality service to that of England and Wales but does so at greater expense – with prices about 12 per cent higher than in England and Wales.

The report concludes that there is a strong case for stating that the water system in England and Wales delivers the best value for money of all the utility sectors in the study, and that the model has driven up standards and reduced overall costs.

Commenting on the new study, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said:

“This research shows how well private water companies in England and Wales compare with some of their European counterparts, reflecting the benefits of £150 billion investment over nearly thirty years. The water industry has come a long way since privatisation in 1989, and customers are now five times less likely to have interrupted water supplies, eight times less likely to suffer sewer flooding, and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure. The business plans that companies have put forward for 2020 to 2025 propose an extra £50 billion of investment, which would see the service improved even further.”

The highlights from the draft business plans for the water industry in England were set out in the Manifesto for Water, published on the 3rd of September 2018. The manifesto outlined a 16 per cent cut in leakage, an above 4 per cent real-term reduction in average bills, and a 90 per cent increase in the number of customers receiving financial support from their water company. It also includes a new programme for helping the environment, which will see 8000 km of rivers cleaned and improved. The average household bill is currently around £1 a day for world-class drinking water, reliable sewerage services and protection of the environment.

Today’s Global Water Intelligence’s report, International Comparisons of Water Sector Performance, sets out the six key areas where they felt there was enough data to make meaningful comparisons between the service in the different countries. Those six areas are:

Water compliance – how good is the water that comes out of the taps
The quality of wastewater treatment
Customer service
Non-revenue water – the amount of water ‘lost’ in the system through leakage, faulty meters or unauthorised use
The charge of water and wastewater to customers
The total cost to run the service per person

More than 220 sources were examined for the report, which was commissioned by Water UK, and several national agencies and statistics offices were contacted directly, such as: the Drinking Water Inspectorate in the UK; the Umweltbundesamt in Germany; the Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Welfare of Spain; the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland; the Italian Regulatory Authority for Electricity Gas and Water; and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of France.

For more information please contact the Water UK Communications Team on 020 7344 1808 or comms@water.org.uk