The Water Report joins experts in BBC analysis of water nationalisation

THE WATER REPORT editor Karma Loveday has called on advocates of public ownership of the water sector to provide evidence for their proposal to put the debate on a sound footing. And regulatory expert, Dieter Helm, insisted, "The ownership issue is not the big question; the big question is the regulatory one.” Both were speaking along with other water experts on an edition of David Aaronovitch's BBC's Radio 4 programme The Briefing Room, looking at Labour's proposals for a publicly owned water industry. Helm said nationalisation was fundamentally straightforward for a government to do and even played down the costs saying the oft quoted £90 bn figure was "pretty close to absurd.” But he qu

Labour pledges democratic ownership will hit water first

At its conference last week, the Labour Party confirmed water would be the first sector to be returned to public ownership should it win the next election, and published two papers fleshing out some detail. Clear water – Labour’s vision for a modern and transparent publicly owned water system – earmarked Regional Water Authorities whose boards will be made up of local councillors, three trade union representatives, and one representative each of the community, the consumer and the environment. Ofwat’s regulatory responsibility will be absorbed into DEFRA and a new public regulatory system formed under the banner of a National Water Agency responsible for economic and performance standards an

Companies pledge to do more as they report back on freeze thaw

Water companies individually, and collectively through Water UK, last week submitted details to Ofwat of how they are improving their response to future extreme weather related events. The trade body reported that individual company action falls under three broad categories: planning and preparation – carrying out preparedness exercises, with lessons learnt from recent events; enhancing leakage detection; and updating modelling scenarios; stakeholder and customer engagement – reviewing the effectiveness of communication strategies; understanding what worked well in the deployment of alternative water supplies; and improving communications to customers ahead of the winter; and incident respon

Irish Water lifts drought orders

The Irish Water Board has lifted the last its Water Conservation Order restrictions. The board said a review of the data showed a reduction in demand, with sufficient water resources and a return of rainfall to the seasonal average that all indicated the conservation order could be lifted. The Water Conservation Orders took effect on 1 September 2018 and were due to conclude at midnight on 30 of September 2018.

WICS publishes latest thinking on long- term investment needs and maintenance

The Water Industry Commission for Scotland has published two more decision papers, supporting its Strategic Review of Charges 2021-27. The two new releases deal with meeting long term investment needs and capital maintenance. They follow papers on strategic projections, macroeconomic assumptions and investment prioritisation. They preceded the final three papers covering performance monitoring, financial tramlines and prospects for prices, which are due in November.

United Utilities predicts operating profit growth despite dry-spell cost hike

United Utilities has predicted growth in its underlying operating profit at the half-year mark despite a hike in operating costs arising from the exceptional period of dry weather in the summer. The company said it expected to see revenue up from the first half-year “reflecting our allowed regulatory revenue changes.” United said: “the underlying operating profit for the first half of 2018/19 is expected to be higher than the first half of 2017/18, despite underlying infrastructure renewal expenditure being higher,” with the operating costs associated with the dry summer being an adjusted item. It announced its current trading as “in line with the group’s expectations” for the six months end

Pennon forecasts interim totex outperformance at South West

Water and waste group Pennon has issued a trading statement reporting its South West Water subsidiary as continuing to produce a “strong operational and financial performance, with a focus on efficiency and customer service,” along with “ongoing total expenditure outperformance.” In the statement released ahead of its results for the half year ending 30 September 2018, Pennon said: “Revenue from increased customer demand is expected to broadly offset the operational cost of delivery.” A customer experience survey gave South West a high score according to Pennon and the half year included its 22nd consecutive summer with no water restrictions despite “unprecedented demand”. Group return on r

Spencer to chair national water resources group after quitting Anglian

Anglian’s director of strategic growth and resilience, Jean Spencer (pictured), is taking up the post of independent chair of the new National Water Resources Framework steering group, having recently left Anglian Water after 14 years as a director. Spencer has strategic growth and resilience role since April 2017, and before that served as its regulation director for the 13 years since 2004. Alongside her duties at Anglian, Spencer has been a leading light in the wider industry’s work on water resources and resilience. She has been integral to the development of regional multi-sector water resources planning hub, Water Resources East. Notably, she also led the steering group that oversaw th

Sarah Hendry to quit DEFRA water role to lead rural landowners' association

DEFRA's director for floods and water, Sarah Hendry (pictured), is to leave her post in mid October to take on the role of director general of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), a membership organisation for the owners of land, property and businesses in rural England and Wales. Hendry has been a civil service director since 2006, and held roles in the Department of Health and DEFRA before taking up the floods and water post in April 2015. Among her recent achievements in water is leading the Department's work on business retail market opening. More broadly, Hendry has lead the government’s decontamination and recovery work in Salisbury since March. The CLA seeks to safeguard t

Labour signals regional public ownership for water as it unwraps green plan

The Labour Party repeated its pledge to bring water back into public ownership yesterday, when it published its environment policy, The Green Transformation, at the first day of its annual conference in Liverpool. Citing freshwater under pressure from climate change and population growth, water demand outstripping supply by 2050 in most areas, 20% of water lost to leaks, and unsustainable abstraction, the Party said it would: “Bring water back into democratic public ownership, lowering bills and providing levels of investment needed to drastically reduce leakage and tackle major sewage pollution incidents, which are still rising", and “Establish new democratic public water companies which wi

Anglian, Severn Trent and Waterwise among innovation prizewinners

Anglian Water, Severn Trent Water, Waterwise and Cranfield University were among the UK winners of the IWA Project Innovation Awards 2018, presented last week in Tokyo. The awards comprise six categories, each recognising global excellence in a distinct aspect of water innovation – from breakthroughs in research to innovations in governance. The 2018 winners were: Category: Market-changing Water Technology and Infrastructure GOLD: Aqua-Q AB - Aquatrack SILVER: Carollo Engineers and City of Altamonte Springs - pureALTA BRONZE: Suez, Hengli Petro and LPEC - Inbedded Wastewater Treatment Plant Category: Performance Improvement and Operational Solutions GOLD: Anglian Water - Shop Window SILVER:

Customer watchdog reports wide gulf in handling gripes and unwanted contacts

Written complaints and unwanted telephone contacts by customers to water companies fell overall in 2017/18 compared to 2016/7, though performance varied considerably company to company. According to the Consumer Council for Water’s (CCWater's) household complaints report, of the large firms, Wessex performed best on written complaints with 14.6 per 10,000 connected properties, while Portsmouth did best of the water only companies (and overall) with just 10.3. This compares with the worst performers’ Southern (31.6) of the water and sewerage firms and Bristol of the WOCs. On unwanted telephone contacts, Anglian was the best performer of the WASCs by some way, with 360 contacts per 10,000 conn

Small business awareness of water retail market stagnates

Non-household customers are barely more aware they can switch their water supplier now than they were a year ago, according to the Consumer Council for Water. The latest wave of its findings from research into small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), conducted in August and published last week, found that only two out of five (41%) thought they could switch their water provider, despite the market opening in England almost 18 months ago. The watchdog pointed out that overall awareness levels have not shifted since its first survey was conducted in July 2017. Other results included: When prompted, just a quarter of SMEs said they were aware that the water market in England had opened to ret

Ofwat moves to modify licences

Ofwat is consulting until 19 October on proposals to simplify water company licences. The regulator said it had worked with the sector over the past year to identify areas where licences can be simplified and streamlined, to make it easier for: companies to understand what is expected of them; Ofwat to determine whether companies are complying with their obligations; and stakeholders to understand for what the regulator will hold companies to account. It proposed changes to all licences, aimed at: simplifying the language and structure of the licence; removing conditions or reducing and rationalising conditions which are no longer relevant or do not reflect the environment in which companies

Atkins appoints new head of UK water

Atkins has appointed Daressa Frodsham as its head of UK water, responsible for increasing the company’s footprint in the UK water market. Frodsham (pictured) has more than 25 years’ experience working in the water industry, including roles as director for water and environment at Ricardo Energy & Environment, and head of engineering and head of capital delivery performance at United Utilities. In her new role, she will be responsible for driving further growth in the water sector and delivering customer focused outcomes for UK water companies. Part of the SNC-Lavalin Group, Atkins supports the water, wastewater and water-related environmental sectors with services from water strategy plannin

Research reveals Prozac in sewage-fed worms could affect other wildlife

Parliament this week heard about research findings that showed drugs, including the anti-depressant, Prozac, in earthworms collected from sewage treatment plants “provide a clear route of exposure to many species of wildlife including birds and bats.” In an answer to a written question about the findings from Tory Peer, Lord Tebbitt, Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Lord Gardiner highlighted work published last year by scientists at the University of York who found Prozac concentrations in earthworms from sewage plant of more than 20 nanograms per gram. “The full significance of this is still being assessed,” Lord Gardiner wrote Other recent research had, Lor

Drought group warns of risk of spring hosepipe bans if winter is dry

If winter rainfall is below average, water restrictions on water company customers are likely in spring 2019. That was one message from the latest meeting of the National Drought Group (NDG), which took place on 20 September. The group confirmed there is no threat to essential water supplies and that restrictions are unlikely this autumn, but that “current environmental situation is fragile and dependent on good rainfall over the autumn and winter period”. At the end of August, overall reservoir stocks were at 65%. In a statement, the chair of the NDG, the Environment Agency’s chief executive Sir James Bevan, said significant number of reservoirs in the area around Manchester, Sheffield and

Arup report urges cities to extend thinking on infrastructure beyond boundaries

City authorities and businesses worldwide fail to invest adequately in the water basins that supply them and a growing number of them risk running out of water if they do not improve the resilience of their water sources according to a report by Arup. The report urges cities to consider infrastructure beyond their immediate environs with “upstream thinking” that encompasses “the entire river basin on which they depend.” In its report Cities Alive: Water for People, Arup advises cities to expand what they might now consider “their’”water infrastructure to include the entire river basin on which they depend. It also outlines recommendations for successfully managing and maintaining water basi

Business charity appoints Jo Dow to its advisory board in Scotland

Business promotion charity, Business in the Community (BITC) Scotland, has appointed Business Stream chief executive, Jo Dow (pictured), to its advisory board in a recent round of ten board appointments. The role of the Advisory Board is to support the strategic direction of BITC Scotland, as well as help the organisation achieve its business objectives. The charity said it focus is Scotland was on: fostering inclusive growth through building better workforces; widening access to lifelong learning and skills training; encouraging sustainable economic development; enabling businesses to work together to regenerate local places; and helping businesses measure their social, environmental impac

Severn Trent's academic tie-up with university ranks among top 100

Severn Trent Water’s strategic partnership with Cranfield University is one of the world’s top 100 in environmental research according to academic journal, Nature. Half of the top 20 collaborations listed in the Nature Index of the leading 100 ‘top 100 corporate-academic partnerships’ involved water companies. Cranfield’s tie up with Severn Trent has been in place for more than seven years, and covers several areas of the water company’s business including phosphorous removal from wastewater and anaerobic digestion to produce biogas for low-carbon, in-house energy production. Nature said: “Such collaborations are set to become more important, as populations, especially in cities, increase a