Natural England issues first "strategic" licences for habitat safeguarding

Natural England has awarded a new type of strategic licence to four water companies for works which might affect the habitats of rare or protected species. The new “organisational licence” will cut down on paperwork, and provide the water companies with access to a fast track approval process for relevant engineering works. Southern Water secured one of the new licences in recognition of its high quality work protecting vulnerable wildlife, including dormice, badgers and crested newts. Andrew Smith, Natural England area manager for Thames, Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said: "Natural England is pleased to have worked with Southern Water over the last year to develop this Organisati

English retail market sees first failure as Aquaflow's licences revoked

The first retailer failure in the English water market was confirmed last week when Ofwat revoked the water and sewerage licences of Aquaflow Utilities, after the company became insolvent. The regulator explained it received evidence from Aquaflow last Monday (25 March) that it has been unable to pay its debts since 19 March and was no longer carrying out its customer facing functions. Ofwat gave 24 jours notice on Wednesday of the revocation, which took place on Thursday. Aquaflow’s 74 customers will be reallocated to a new supplier without any disruption to their supply under the Interim Supply Code. Mike Keil, head of policy and research at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We want t

Regulators secure £3m for strategic water infrastructure alliance

Regulators announced last week that the Treasury had approved funding to set up a new joint team to ensure a smooth regulatory path for strategic water infrastructure like joint reservoir projects and inter-regional water transfers. Funds of £2.9m have been signed off for the 2019/20 financial year for the water Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (water RAPID). Ofwat will raise the money through an additional licence fee. The level of funding for future years will be agreed during the Comprehensive Spending Review. The water RAPID team will bring together staff from Ofwat, the Environment Agency, and the Drinking Water Inspectorate into a new team, with the aim o

CBI boss slates utilities but knocks down Labour's re-nationalisation plans

The director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) made a series of “concrete proposals for reform” about the UK’s infrastructure, utilities and public services in a speech last week, after criticising their accountability and operational performance but arguing against the Labour Party’s public ownership solution. Delivering one of the 2019 Roscoe Lectures at Liverpool John Moores University, Carolyn Fairbairn (pictured) said Labour was asking the right questions: “The Labour Party’s decision to focus attention on our railways, water, electricity and gas is a considered one, because they are industries in which, in recent years, accountability has felt most elusive. During

British Water finds jobs and investment would suffer from nationalisation

Most water supply chain companies fear negative impacts should the industry be nationalised, according to a survey by British Water of its members. Among the findings were: • 78% said they believed future investment would be reduced or significantly reduced, while 14% believed it would increase; • 64% believed the number of people employed in the supply chain would be reduced; • 66% believed standards of service would be reduced or significantly reduced; • 39% believed water quality at the tap would be reduced; and • 55% believed their business’ turnover and profitability would be reduced or significantly reduced. British Water UK director, Paul Mullord, said: “Changes in the ownership struc

Defra’s call for evidence on per capita consumption scheduled for May

The government has announced May as the month it will kick off its work on setting a per capita consumption (PCC) target. Water minister, Therese Coffey (pictured), said in parliament last week that the government will issue a call for evidence on an “ambitious” target for per capita consumption next month. The work has been awaited since late last year when the government published a report on water conservation. In related news, the water industry's Water Efficiency Collaborative Fund and Waterwise have commissioned an extension to the 2018 independent review of the costs and benefits of water labelling. Waterwise said that as well as delving more deeply into water labelling options, the n

Climate emergency at Holyrood and Westminster

Climate emergency was raised in Westminster and in the Scottish Parliament last week. Shadow environment secretary, Sue Hayman, declared a “national environment and climate emergency” on Thursday. Speaking in Parliament, she called on the government to join the tens of local councils and thousands of school children who have made a similar declaration, and asked those on the government benches to join her. Water minister, Therese Coffey, said the government was “already ahead of the game,” citing the 25 Year Environment Plan. Hayman called this answer “a bit of a fudge” and vowed to press on with or without Conservative support. The previous day, Scottish Green MSP, Mark Ruskell, raised a mo

United Utilities and Nestlé point the way for catchment policy and societal value

Catchment collaboration between United Utilities and Nestlé in the River Eden valley could shape water management policy for years to come, the companies believe. At an event at Nestle’s Dalston factory, the water company and food producer shared details of their joint work to protect the farmers, businesses, habitats and communities whose lives and livelihoods are all interlinked with the river and the land through which it flows. Amina Aboobakar, United Utilities’ integrated catchment strategy manager, explained: “Rather than tackle the different issues separately with traditional models of engineering or funding, we’re seeing that there’s a lot of overlap in our objectives. That means we

MOSL to publish alternative credit information in bid to up transparency

MOSL is set to publish details of all the alternative eligible credit support (AECS) agreements wholesalers enter into with retailers on its website from this month, following a decision by Ofwat last week. The regulator approved Wholesale Retail Code change proposal CPW052, which made provision for MOSL to display information on alternative credit terms all together in one place, rather than each wholesaler publishing its own agreements on its own website. Ofwat explained: “It is proposed that an obligation is introduced for wholesalers to notify the authority [Ofwat] and the Market Operator in full of any AECS arrangements they enter into with retailers. The market operator will publish de

Galliford Try appoints new chief executive and finance director

Galliford Try has appointed Graham Prothero as its new chief executive. Prothero (pictured) has been Galliford Try’s finance director since 2013 and takes up his new post immediately. Andrew Duxbury – finance director at Galliford Try’s housebuilding division, Linden Homes, succeeds Prothero as group finance director. Prothero succeeds Peter Truscott who is leaving the business and joins Crest Nicholson in September 2019 after his contract with Galliford Try expires. Prothero’s earlier posts include finance director at Development Securities and a partner at Ernst & Young.

Energy & Utility Skills upgrades Blue Card scheme

Energy & Utility Skills has launched its redeveloped National Water Hygiene ( “Blue Card”) training and accreditation scheme to bring it “in line with changing regulatory requirements.” The scheme promotes water hygiene and protecting public health. Chief executive of Energy & Utility Skills, Nick Ellins, said: “With more and more individuals involved in the production of high-quality water for human consumption – contractors, facilities management organisations, environmental health practitioners, water engineers – it’s essential that Blue Card holders are fully accredited and understand their responsibilities in protecting public health and public confidence in water quality.” Deputy chie

EU votes to ban common fungicide after experts warn of possible threat to health

The European Union (EU) has voted to ban a fungicide that has been in use for 55 years after an expert review by the EU’s safety authority found groundwater exposure to the chemical’s metabolites (breakdown products) was “a critical area of concern” and included a possible cancer threat. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that were concentrations of metabolites of the fungicide, chlorothalonil, in groundwater to exceed 0.1 l g/l it could be relevant to its concerns because the fungicide could be a carcinogen – a cancer-inducing substance. The expert review proposed that chlorothalonil should be classified as a carcinogen category 1B (substances presumed to have carcinogenic p

Thames unveils £1bn technology investment plan

Thames Water has unveiled plans to invest £1bn over the next six years “to revolutionise its water and waste operations, transform customer experience and boost efficiency by 20%”. Thames Water said its will increase trunk mains monitoring by 25%, take live readings from up to 200,000 sewer depth monitoring points to prevent pollutions, and link-up all its engineers to a smartphone app giving network visibility and real-time information. The company said it will by 2025 complete its roll out a new customer care platform “to personalise service for customers, with information displayed relevant to where they live,” and install 700,000 domestic smart meters. Thames Water chief digital officer,

Severn Trent fined £0.5m for sewage spill on site of special scientific interest

Severn Trent Water has been fined £500,000 for discharging raw sewage in November 2013 onto land at Sutton Park in the West Midlands – a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The company was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court. It was ordered also to pay prosecution costs of £50,694 and a victim surcharge of £120. The incident occurred due to a blockage in the company’s sewer system within Sutton Park. Rare and sensitive plants in an area of 0.65 hectares were destroyed. Natural England had expressed concern with the progress and efficiency of the clean-up operation, which concluded in May 2014. The Environment Agency reported that in passing sentence, Judge Drew QC noted that the clean-up op

WaterAid: water thirsty imports to West draining marginalised communities dry

Food and clothing imported by wealthy Western countries make it harder for many poor and marginalised communities to get a daily clean water supply. A new report from WaterAid, released on World Water Day last week, warned that in many areas the amount of groundwater pumped for irrigation exceeds the amount that is naturally replenished, so wells and pumps can run dry. Products with a high water footprint are of particular concern. WaterAid highlighted: • coffee – a cup which contains about 125ml of actual water is made from ground coffee which takes 130 litres to produce. Tea came in at 27 litres per cup; • avocados – 2,000 litres of water per kilogramme; • rice – accounts for 40% of all g

Charities urge government to eradicate single use plastic by 2025 not 2042

The government must phase-out all non-essential single-use plastics by 2025 to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution, 19 leading environment charities said on Friday. The groups, coordinated by Wildlife and Countryside Link, said in a joint report that a wholesale transition away from single-use plastic must be an “urgent priority if the government truly wants to fulfil its pledge to be a global leader in tackling plastic pollution”. The move would save more than 4,000bn pieces of unnecessary single-use plastic waste being consumed in the UK between 2026 - 2042, “helping to slash the ‘toxic plastic soup’ ending up in our oceans, rivers and countryside”. The report argued the number-one pri

Scotland’s natural capital is worth £273 bn

The Scottish government has put an asset value of £273bn on Scotland’s natural capital. It said that, for the first time, a comprehensive assessment of the monetary value of Scotland’s natural capital had been carried out and that the £273bn figure, which relates to 2015, equated to 34% of the total UK asset valuation for natural capital. A quarter of the asset value was attributable to items not directly captured in gross domestic product, namely carbon sequestration, pollutant removal and recreation. The assessment included information on ten ecosystem services: water abstraction, agricultural biomass, fish capture, timber,, mineral production, oil and gas production, renewable energy gene

Waterwise supporters unveil initiatives at its annual conference

Wave announced it had become a new Waterwise supporter. It joined Business Stream and Water Plus as retailers backing the NGO’s water efficiency mission. Waterwise called for a national campaign to raise awareness of the water lost by malfunctioning toilets as its Water Efficiency Strategy Steering Group published a position statement on leaky lavatories. Research shows 5-8% of toilets are leaking and fixing them can halve customer bills and contribute 10% of the additional capacity needed to cope with extreme drought in 2050. The NGO also said water companies should scale up the find and fix activities, while the WRAS testing regime needed a review. Thames Water launched a new water calcula

"Jaws of death" add bite to message on water efficiency

Environment Agency (EA) chief executive officer, Sir James Bevan, last week brought a storm of media interest in the need to use water efficiently, with his “jaws of death” speech at the annual Waterwise conference. The phrase, which Sir James (pictured) admitted he inserted to grab attention, refers to the point at which demand outstrips supply on the charts in water company business plans, some 20-25 years hence. He explained: “Climate change plus growth equals existential threat”.Much of the speech was a call to action on how to avoid the jaws of death by embracing a twin track strategy of boosting supply while reducing demand. Sir James backed Waterwise’s ambition to cut per capita consu

Thames Water’s chief operating officer quits

Thames Water’s chief operating officer (COO) Lawrence Gosden has resigned – the latest in a series of departures from the company’s senior executive team. Gosden (pictured) became COO in April 2018, having previously been managing director of wastewater. He first joined Thames Water in October 2007, to lead the delivery of the company’s capital programme, and was instrumental in the creation of the Eight2O Alliance. Other recent departures from the Thames executive team included strategy and regulation director, Nick Fincham, and strategic planning and investment director, Sarah McMath Like Fincham, Gosden is likely to remain at Thames for some time yet. The company said it would begin recru