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A Manifesto for Water: the future of the sector

The water industry in England unveiled its Manifesto for Water on 3 September, highlighting company proposals for a major investment programme to improve services and investment.

The manifesto outlines 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 amount 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.

Customers currently pay around £1 a day for world-class drinking water, reliable sewerage services and protection of the environment. Thanks to the sector’s performance, around 90 per cent of customers are satisfied with the services they get, and 86 per cent of the public say they trust their water company.

While the water industry’s record over the past 30 years – cutting leakage, keeping bills affordable, improving water quality, and cleaning up rivers – has been good, this week’s business plans offer to take performance to another level.

The ambition highlighted in our manifesto shows an industry that is dynamic and passionate about delivering real benefits for customers, the environment and the country as a whole. The industry has set out an ambitious vision for the future of water that puts customers right at the heart of everything that companies do.

This approach is part of the industry’s five-year price review cycle. Every five years, water companies in England and Wales set out how they plan to meet their responsibilities in providing the most essential of public services. This is a major exercise in finding the right balance between keeping bills affordable, investing in better services and taking action to improve the environment.

This approach has seen water companies invest £150 billion over nearly 30 years – equivalent to the cost of building a new Wembley Stadium every month over that period.

But in a world of high customer expectations and where the pressures of climate change and population growth are challenging the ability to deliver now and in the future, companies are committed to do much more.

That is why they have carried out their most extensive engagement with customers to date in preparing their plans for 2020-2025, consulting over 5 million customers in shaping their plans to reflect the priorities of the communities they serve.

Each company’s plan varies to fit their local requirements, and all plans are subject to confirmation from Ofwat. But while the emphases vary, the key themes are common – bills, resilience, environment, innovation.

Taken together, the plans summarised in our Manifesto for Water demonstrate how companies can deliver against the high standards expected of an essential public service.