Water Plus launches business water-saving competition

Water Plus has launched a competition to find new ideas to help businesses save water. The company, with the support of its partner Waterwise, has set up an awards scheme to reward innovation in the business space that directly involves water or wastewater or an innovation which results in a business or public sector entity using less water overall. There are three categories: one for established businesses, one for universities and colleges, and one for individuals or micro businesses. The top prize is £5,000 and there is a runners-up prize pot of up to £2,500. Chief executive of Water Plus, Andy Hughes, said: “…We want to hear from inventors – from the individual bright spark, to universit

Two of three firms on report to watchdog over complaints show improvement

The Consumer Council for Water has reported two of the three companies it singled out for extra reporting following poor complaints performance in 2017/18 significantly improved in the first half of 2018/19. Phone complaints fell by 15% at SES Water and written complaints by more than a third during the first six months of 2018/19. Last year’s worst performer Southern Water reported calls made by customers to resolve problems fell 34%, while written complaints fell 32%. However, written complaints to Bristol Water, where CC Water saw the largest rise in complaints of any water company in England and Wales during 2017/18, went up 1% in the same period. The watchdog noted, though, that call co

Regulator revamps board principles and signals licence changes are on the way

Following an extensive consultation and review period, Ofwat last week published its revised Board Leadership, Transparency, and Governance Principles. Among the changes announced was a specific requirement for water company boards to establish their company’s purpose, strategy and values and to be satisfied that these and its culture reflect the needs of all those it serves. Boards will be expected to monitor and assess the culture and values of the company and take action where they are not aligned with its purpose. Ofwat consulted on proposed revisions in July 2018. It has adapted its overall approach in light of responses, consolidating the "objectives’" and "main principles" it original

Companies in the clear on credit

Ofwat will not be pursuing any further policy work on credit arrangements in the business retail market at this time. In a letter to retailers and the associated companies, senior director of customers and casework, Emma Kelso (pictured) said Ofwat is “generally satisfied” with what it has been told by companies in response to its earlier letter seeking assurance on credit arrangements and customer pricing. It was seeking an understanding of whether credit arrangements created barriers to entry for smaller players, and whether parent company guarantees and intra-company credit led to an unlevel playing field. Kelso added that where Ofwat had questions, it will contact retailers “separately a

Ofwat set to extend business back billing limit to up to 24 months

Businesses with significant water costs and whose invoices are based on unplanned settlement runs can be back billed by up to 24 months, rather than the 16 months set out in the Customer Protection Code of Practice (CPCoP), under a proposed decision by Ofwat. The regulator is running a short consultation until 7 February on the plan to bring arrangements in the CPCoP on back billing in to line with arrangements in the Wholesale Retail Code governing the payment of primary charges to wholesalers by retailers. It reasoned: “Aligning the regulatory framework is necessary to ensure that retailers are not left exposed to charges which they are unable to recover from the relevant non-household cu

Arup appoints new chair

Dr Alan Belfield will take over as chair of Arup Group from 1 April 2019. Belfield (pictured) currently serves as Arup's chief operating officer and has previously led its operations in the UK, Middle East and Africa as part of his 25 year term at the company. As chair he will lead Arup's 15,000-strong team overseeing the global business Belfield is passionate about Arup’s aim for ‘social usefulness’ and is a strong advocate of the firm’s diversity and inclusion strategy. He said: "In these uncertain political and economic times, our work and our values have never mattered more. Along with my colleagues, I look forward to working with our clients all around the world on projects that make a

Wave expands Scottish operation

Wave has buoyed up its Scottish operation with new recruits and an office move. It has taken on eight additional staff and new business development manager Mark Carroll, who is responsible for growing the industrial and commercial customer base in Scotland. It has also moved from its central Edinburgh location to accommodation at Ocean Point – the flagship office space in Leith’s developing dock area. Wave serves around 300,000 businesses across the UK including over 175 public bodies across Scotland under the Scottish Government contract for water and wastewater billing services. The company has also announced that under this contract, it has delivered more than £3m in annualised public sec

Thames to fund £80,000 river upgrades after 2013 polluting sewer block

Thames Water has paid £80,000 to the South East Rivers Trust to make improvements to a local river under an enforcement undertaking following a damaging sewer blockage in 2013. An underground sewer pipe in Chislehurst became lodged with tree roots, fat, oil, grease and other debris. The build-up forced sewage above ground, flooding a field and two streams, before entering the River Shuttle. The Environment Agency said the effect of the pollution on water quality and river habitats was seen over several miles and blamed a lack of maintenance by Thames Water over an extended period of time for the incident. Alongside the £80,000 payment, Thames incurred nearly £20,000 in costs to the Agency an

New apprentice partnership links colleges with companies

Energy & Utility Skills has partnered with apprentice college membership organisation Collab Group to boost the connection between apprenticeship training establishments and utility employers. The two organisations intend the partnership to inspire more learners to enter the energy and water sectors, to help plug the gap that will be left by the retirement of around 20% of their skilled workforces in the next ten years. Over 200,000 new recruits will be needed. Collab Group members will also be able to work with the government approved ‘Energy & Utilities Independent Assessment Service’ which provides apprenticeship end point assessment services and ensures transferability of skills across t

WaterAid appoints global policy director

WaterAid has appointed Sol Oyuela as global director of policy and campaigns. Oyuela joins from Unicef UK where she has been director of advocacy and public affairs for the last five years. She has also held senior roles at Christian Aid, CAFOD and Progressio, focused on advocacy, climate change policy and water resource management. Earlier in her career, she was a policy advisor to the Embassy of Argentina to the Vatican. She starts at WaterAid on 1 April and will be London based.

EA chair urges government to embed green principles in policy and law

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard-Boyd last week called for the Environment Bill published by government just before Christmas to be made relevant to all policy making and for the green standards it sets to be made collaboratively with stakeholders. Speaking at Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum last Thursday, Howard-Boyd (pictured) said of the Bill “there’s a lot to celebrate in it”. She included the new Office for Environmental Protection. Acknowledging “outstanding questions about its resource and ultimate powers”, she said: “We think the Office’s proposed approach – investigating complaints about environmental law and bringing about compliance through legal proceeding

Natural England chair retires

Andrew Sells has retired as Chair of Natural England after five years. Sells (pictured) said: “Protecting and enhancing the natural environment has been a considerable challenge, especially in a difficult financial climate, but I am very proud to have given it my best.” He went on to say he had “nothing but admiration for our knowledgeable and inspirational staff, and I have been fortunate to have the constant support of a high-calibre board," adding: “I believe Natural England is well-equipped to provide the environmental leadership needed to help fulfil the government’s aim of leaving the natural world in a better state." The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it expec

Cross party MPs call for legally binding water quality targets in Environment Bill

The Environmental Audit Committee has called for legally binding targets on water quality to be enshrined in the Environment Bill. The call came on 17 January, when the Committee published its Sustainable Seas report. This put forward wide ranging recommendations on safeguarding the marine environment, particularly in the face of climate change. The MPs said: “Many of the chemical pollutants found in the ocean are from land-based sources. It is worrying that the UK is lagging behind other countries in the EU with regards to nitrate pollution, and much greater progress must be made to reducing land-based sources of chemical pollution. The government should, as part of its Environment Bill, p

Amber seeks green light for retail licence

Amber Water Solutions has applied for a Water Supply and Sewerage Licence. The Cardiff-based company, part of the Amber Energy Group, plans to be a pioneer in the build-to-rent market and wants to expand its water division to offer a retail service to its existing corporate and SME clients. Ofwat, which is taking comments on the application until 13 February, reported of the company: “Its ambition is to become a leading water retailer and business solutions provider. It understands and appreciate the inherent link between Water and Energy across human exploitation pathways.”

Defra consults on boosting regulator powers in water management revamp

Defra has published a wide-ranging consultation on improving the long-term planning of water resources and drainage, and giving regulators more powers. The paper, Improving our management of water in the environment, sets out proposals including to: • modernise the process for modifying water company licence conditions to bring them in line with other utilities and to strengthen Ofwat’s ability to improve the way water companies operate; • reform elements of abstraction licensing to link it more tightly to government objectives for the water environment. “In particular, we propose to clarify the conditions under which the Environment Agency can amend licences to secure good ecological status

EnTrade app eases cover crop verification for farmers

Catchment services market platform EnTrade has launched an app to make it easier for farmers to participate in trades which benefit the environment. Wessex Water-owned EnTrade facilitates efficient catchment spending between buyers of environmental measures, such as water companies, and sellers such as farmers and landowners. Buyers pay sellers over the platform to take actions such as growing cover crops that reduce environmental impacts like reducing excess nutrients entering nearby watercourses. The free app enables farmers to upload pictures and details of their crops direct from the field via their smartphone. Once submitted, machine learning technology automatically identifies and conf

Bristol Water commits to societal benefit with first Social Contract

Last week, Bristol Water claimed the launch of the water industry’s first Social Contract. The company said despite industry-wide discussions on social contracts picking up pace in recent months, it had been working on the idea for over a year and had embedded it in its September PR19 business plan. That document promised: “Through Bristol Water for All [the 2020-25 plan] we establish a social contract with our customers. We vow to deliver demonstrable community benefit with high levels of customer satisfaction, transparent engagement and financial consequences should we fail to meet expectations.” Chief executive, Mel Karam (pictured) explained further: “We see our social contract as a fr

CCW urges firms to rethink PR19 ODIs and go further on affordability

The Consumer Council for Water (CC Water) has urged water companies without demonstrable customer support for the rewards or penalties proposed in their business plans for 2020-25 to make changes while there is still time. With less than two weeks to go until Ofwat grades water company PR19 business plans, the customer watchdog highlighted a series of shortcomings at both industry and company level. On Outcome Delivery Incentives, policy manager, James Mackenzie (pictured), said: “What is of greatest concern is where companies have applied ODI rewards with little or no customer support, and it’s important that companies re-think this in the coming months while changes to business plans can s

Ofwat claims new vision is shaping up as it publishes 2019/20 work programme

Ofwat has published its draft forward work programme for 2019-20 for consultation, at the heart of which will be a new vision for regulating the sector for 2020 and beyond. The watchdog has already started “laying the groundwork” for this, seeking “the views of stakeholders and people from all walks of life, on what they want from companies of the future”. It said it will also engage with the National Infrastructure Commission review of utility regulators and other studies as it considers the strategy. Ahead of the strategy being published later this year, Ofwat identified its immediate strategic outcomes for 2019/20. These were to ensure customers receive a great service (operational and cu

Sector ups game on service delivery, customers and financing in 2017-18

“The dial is moving in the right direction” in the industry on customer satisfaction, financial resilience and key operational areas including reducing sewer flooding and pollution, according to Ofwat senior director David Black. He cautioned, however, that the improvement “needs to be replicated across the board, so that all customers benefit from the highest levels of service”. Black was speaking last week as Ofwat published a raft of information in multiple reports on water companies’ service, delivery and financial performance over 2017-18. Some of the highlights are listed below. Operational service Two thirds of performance commitments (PCs) were achieved across the sector, largely fla