Our vision

In November 2020, water companies unveiled a ground-breaking plan to deliver a net zero water supply for customers by 2030 in the world’s first sector-wide commitment of its kind. 

We’ve estimated we could save the emission of 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by reaching net zero two decades ahead of the UK Government’s legally binding target of 2050. 

Our ambition is that this will set the bar for other infrastructure, utility and energy-intensive industries in the UK and around the world. 

The challenge

Water companies are not like other businesses. We provide a vital public service hinged on major infrastructure and yet we’re also a large landowner and custodian of the natural environment.

Moving and treating water is an energy intensive process leading to millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

28m

Properties served

2.4m

tonnes of CO2e
Annual emissions

569K

Kilometres of sewage pipe

7k

Treatment sites

142

litres/person
Average daily consumption

2030 imagined

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap has been developed using over a decade’s worth of detailed data and provides water companies with a framework on which to develop and cost their own net zero action plans.

Expert analysis and consultation with stakeholders confirm there is no single solution that achieves net zero on its own so a broad combination of approaches and collaboration between water companies, policymakers and the supply chain will be needed.

2030 imagined

By 2030 we aim to see:

Low emissions vehicles

100% of fleet passenger vehicles are electrified and 80% of commercial vehicles (LGVs and HGVs) converted to alternative fuels to cut carbon and air pollution.

Water and energy saving

New strategies to tackle leakage and help customers save water, alongside smarter and more efficient networks and catchments.

Process emissions

Targeting a reduction of up to 60% from our 2018-19 baseline by 2030, with monitoring of emissions to inform research and detailed pathways ahead of PR24.

Renewable power

Up to 3GW of new solar and wind power coupled with energy efficiency measures and suitable storage to provide up to 80% of sector demand, relieve pressure on grid generators, and minimise the need for offsets.

Green gas

Biomethane from sewage waste is injected into the grid to heat up to 150,000 homes, use in hard to decarbonise sectors, or to generate low-carbon power when generation from renewables is low.

But even those highly challenging actions won’t be enough to reach net zero, and our plans also include:

Restoring native habitats

20,000 hectares of owned peatland and grassland are restored and 11 million new trees are planted. These nature-based measures will help achieve a just transition by reducing demand on treatment, providing an important sink for the hard to abate activities like process emissions, restoring habitats, and reducing flood risk.

Targeting innovation

Process emissions are highly uncertain and tackling them quickly is a significant global challenge. We don’t have all the answers yet and finding efficient retrofit solutions is a big priority for our innovation strategy.

Offsetting residual emissions

Even in the most ambitious of our pathways, achieving net zero will include purchasing suitable offsets to counter emissions that cannot be tackled directly by 2030. The development of a robust UK market for businesses to procure carbon offsets will be a key part in helping the sector manage any emissions that cannot yet be eliminated.

Net Zero Water Unlocking a net zero carbon future

Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan

Our plan sets out six commitments alongside four recommendations for others. Together, they create accountability, reduce the costs and risks of transition, and create new benefits like restored habitats.

Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan
Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan Unlocking net zero water: Summary of our 10-point plan

Our Routemap launch

On 12th November, we launched the Net Zero 2030 Routemap to an audience of over 300 stakeholders in a live broadcast. Hosted by Alastair Stewart, the event brought together 14 senior decision-makers, environmental and policy experts to explore the steps that will need to be taken to deliver the transition to net zero while supporting a green, resilient recovery from Covid-19.

2030 imagined
Powering efficiency
Harnessing natural solutions

Net Zero in action

What other people say

We know we can’t do this on our own so we’ve been talking to a variety of
stakeholders who share our ambition for a cleaner, greener future.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:

“The ambitious plans set out by water companies are in the vanguard of climate action. The pursuit of low carbon outcomes, combined with the recovery of the natural environment, set a powerful example of the kind of integrated solutions we need to adopt in rising to the twin challenges of global heating and Nature decline”.

Darren Moorcroft, CEO of the Woodland Trust, said:

“Stepping up to becoming net zero by 2030 is a big challenge for one of the most energy-demanding services that society demands from our natural environment. In using nature-based solutions, the water industry will demonstrate not only how it will meet that #NetZero challenge, but deliver multiple additional benefits for all users of this precious natural resource.”

Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, said:

“Our waterways are the lifeblood of our environment and effective water supply is essential for human health. We think of our rivers, canals, lakes and wetlands and the land that surrounds our reservoirs as beautiful landscape features but they are also the vital ecosystem that supplies our clean drinking water, provides a home for our precious wildlife and, in good condition, can help tackle the climate crisis by storing huge amounts of carbon. It is crucial for our future and in order to deliver on its own commitments that the government gives the water sector the support it needs to decarbonise and help reverse nature’s decline. With 15% of UK species at threat of extinction, the nature crisis must be tackled with the same urgency as the climate crisis.”

Nigel Topping, UK High-level Climate Champion for COP26, said:

“Setting ambitious goals is a crucial part of how we take successful climate action, and Water UK is proving this with the target to reach net zero two decades ahead of the Paris Agreement. By taking these steps as an industry towards decarbonisation, they will accelerate the pace of the Race to Zero within the water sector and beyond.”

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap

Water companies will use the Routemap to build their own detailed net zero action plans, taking account of the plans of key regional stakeholders such as their local electricity distribution network operator, local authorities, and environmental groups.

The Net Zero 2030 Routemap

Introducing our expert panel

We have established an independent panel of experts that is working to help us navigate the opportunities and challenges of our net zero journey.

The Net Zero Expert Panel meets quarterly and is an important sounding board for the sector, providing us with strategic input and guidance at key milestones for the Routemap.

Alistair Maltby
Director of UK Operations
Alistair is Director of UK Operations, Estate and Woodland Outreach at the Woodland Trust, leading the on-the-ground implementation of the Trust’s ambitious plans to create, restore and protect woodland ecosystems at a scale relevant to the nature and climate crisis. Alistair has a good understanding of the water sector following more than 20 years working on river and fishery conservation and restoration.
Professor Tom Stephenson
Cranfield University
Tom Stephenson is Professor of Water Sciences at Cranfield University and is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng). Prof Stephenson is an internationally recognised expert in water and wastewater treatment, water reuse and recycling. As Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation at Cranfield he has been involved in all stages of technology development across a wide range of engineering disciplines, including aerospace, energy, agrifood and environment, and manufacturing.
Bart Schoonbaert
OFWAT
Bart is Director for Environment, Public Value and Governance at Ofwat. Bart has been with Ofwat since 2015, and his work there has spanned across multiple areas with a focus on strategy and price control work. Prior to Ofwat he was in the Sustainable Development division at Ofgem, the energy regulator; before which he spent many years working with water and energy companies in the UK and across multiple other geographies.
Mike Keil
CCW
Mike is part of the Executive Team at CCW and is Director of Policy, Research and Campaigns. Mike spent the first decade of his career at the Met Office and led its middle atmosphere research group. In 2007 he joined Ofwat as Head of Climate Change Policy and wrote their first policy statement on the topic and oversaw the introduction of carbon accounting into the regulatory framework. Mike moved to Severn Trent Water in 2011 where he wrote the business case for the £350m Birmingham Resilience Project, and was heavily involved in their 2015 Climate change ARP Report. Mike has been at CCW since 2017.
Maria Manidaki
Global Technical Lead
Maria is Mott MacDonald’s Global Technical Lead for Net Zero. A chartered engineer with over 18 years of experience in investment planning, carbon and asset management, Maria has led a number of strategic decarbonisation projects in infrastructure, including the Water UK Net Zero Carbon Roadmap. Maria has been supporting water utilities and other infrastructure owners in the UK, Australasia, North America and the Middle East, plan and implement decarbonisation solutions.
Jenna Hegarty
RSPB
Jenna Hegarty is currently Deputy Director for Policy & advocacy at the RSPB’s UK headquarters. Her department encompasses policy expertise at global, European and UK levels, all working towards a shared goal of protecting, restoring, and enhancing the natural environment. Tackling the twin crises of biodiversity decline and climate change are key organisational priorities.
Dr. James Robinson
Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
James has been Director of Conservation for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust since May 2018. He leads a large multidisciplinary team that works on wide portfolio of wetland projects and policy areas in the UK and internationally, including those focused on the role of the water industry in delivering for people, climate and nature.
Tony Grayling
Environment Agency
Tony is Director of Sustainable Business and Development for the Environment Agency, the principle environmental regulator in England. He leads the EA’s work on strategic policy issues including climate change, sustainable development and the 25 Year Environment Plan.
Sophie Broadfield
DEFRA
As Deputy Director for Water Services, Sophie leads on water supply and water company regulation at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Mike Thompson
Climate Change Committee
Mike is Chief Economist and Director of Analysis at the Climate Change Committee, the UK’s independent statutory advisor on climate change. He has been part of the CCC’s senior team since its creation in 2007.

Net Zero Water Unlocking a net zero carbon future