Water sector commits to responsible business leadership

England’s water companies have publicly committed to strive to be exemplars of responsible business practice. Water UK last week published a new sector-wide Public Interest Commitment (PIC), which combines a pledge to champion governance measures to enshrine operating in the public interest in companies’ business purpose, with five specific stretching goals for the sector as a whole. On governance, the trade body accepted decisions on business purpose are for individual company boards. But it pledged to explore the options with independent specialists and to report back in April 2020 on what companies are doing to enshrine public interest within their business purpose. It explained: “Options

Satisfaction has fallen since businesses have been able to switch retailer

Business customer satisfaction with water has deteriorated since the English market opened, according to new research from the Consumer Council for Water. It also trailed satisfaction found among business in Wales, where most do not have a choice of supplier. The watchdog reported satisfaction with water services in England has dropped to 87% compared to 93% in Wales – a gap that has widened since 2016. Moreover, it found only 70% of businesses were content with their retail services. CC Water added that fewer businesses in England also trust their water company (27%) or believe that it cares (51%), compared to when the same study was carried out in 2016. There were more encouraging findings

Wessex launches Marketplace to open its challenges to third party solutions

Wessex Water has launched a first-of-its-kind web platform to enable third parties to contribute solutions to challenges it is facing. Through the new Marketplace platform, Wessex will present challenges the company is looking to solve and any data associated with them and invite others to offer a potential solution. As part of the launch, the company released two initial challenges and datasets on the Marketplace website: reducing phosphorous levels in the Hampshire Avon river catchment and replacing analogue Public Switched Telephone Network services across its sites, which will be redundant by 2025. Chief innovation officer, David Elliott, said non-asset solutions will be important. “We,

Water Savings Week

Water companies and many others will this week be taking part in Waterwise’s Water Saving Week, which runs from 29 April to 3 May. Each day has a specific focus, and the idea is to raise awareness of water use and support water saving behaviours. The schedule is: Meat-free Monday Supported by Meat Free Monday Toilet Tuesday Sponsored by CC Water Wash Wednesday Sponsored by Methven Tap Thursday Sponsored by WaterSafe Freshwater Friday Sponsored by Wave Utilities Waterwise welcomes participation, and will share relevant material on social media tagging @waterwise and using the hashtag #WaterSavingWeek.

Defra publishes Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive-sensitive area maps

DEFRA has published maps identifying stretches of river and other water bodies identified as sensitive under regulations set down under the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. The maps are accompanied by a formal Notice, which takes effect on 13 May 2019, and a schedule with location coordinates for the sensitive areas.

Newspaper reports water firms could be re-nationalised for £14.5bn – or less…

The Financial Times reported on Friday that English water companies could be re-nationalised for as little as £14.5bn, if Labour’s favoured approach to shareholder compensation – basing it on book value – was used. The article, by Gill Plimmer, indicated the figure could even be lower: “According to people close to Labour, shareholders could in fact receive less than book value, since the final price, to be decided by parliament, could be lowered to take into account an industry pension fund deficit of £1bn, land sales by the companies since privatisation, and other factors.” The FT cited ratings agency Moody’s as the source of the £14.5bn figure. It contrasted the small number with the £90b

MOSL appoints new chief

Water retail market operator, MOSL, has appointed Sarah McMath as its new chief executive officer. McMath (pictured) joins from Thames Water, where she has held a variety of roles over the past 24 years. She was most recently managing director of strategic planning and investment, and her previous roles include managing director of water and programme director for Competition 2017 ahead of retail market opening. McMath takes the reins in early June from interim chief executive Des Burke, who joined MOSL in December 2018.

Energy & Utility Skills in tie up to boost youth employment in sector

Energy & Utility Skills has launched a partnership with Youth Employment UK to encourage more young people into the energy and utility sector. The tie up is seeking to address a “youth gap”in the sector with 19% of the workforce aged 55 or older and only 85% under 24 compared the national average of 12%. Energy & Utility Skills said the partners will use their expertise to “support, promote and guide young people to roles or training provision in the sector or to get work-ready.” Gas distribution firm Cadent, and utility service provider, Morrison Utility Services, are early adopters in supporting the partnership.

Scottish Water makes 2019 top 50 list of employers for women

Scottish Water has won a place on the “listing of employers leading the way on workplace gender equality” – the Top 50 Employers for Women 2019 list produced by Times newspaper in partnership with Business in the Community (BITC). Scottish Water said its recognition was “thanks to our family-friendly policies; commitment to health and well-being; approach to developing our talent; inclusive culture and flexible agile-working practices.” BITC said the employers on the unranked list “make gender equality part of their business strategy at all levels.” It said the assessment process “focusses on transparency, the causes behind gaps, what companies are doing to address these structural iss

CC Water calls on industry to up game on compensation as seven firms lead the way

The Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) has commended seven water companies for upping their compensation for losses water supply – and called on the rest of the industry to follow suit. The commented companies, said CC Water, have adopted Ofwat recommendations and increased the money given to householders whose supplies are disrupted for 12 hours or longer. CC Water said while some water companies already go beyond the statutory compensation payment levels, none had previously gone as far as Ofwat’s recommendations. The seven commended companies are Wessex Water, South West Water (including Bournemouth Water), South East Water, SES Water, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, United Utilities and Yorkshi

MPs warn of "downgraded" protection in draft Environment Bill

A cross party group of MPs has warned that “climate change mitigation has been specifically excluded” from the government’s proposed legislation aimed at protecting the environment should the UK leave the European Union. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has highlighted “serious concerns” with the draft Environment (Governance and Principles) Bill saying it lacked coherence and removed environmental responsibilities from many government departments. The EAC , in its pre-legislation scrutiny report , said: “The environmental principles which guide and inform European Union legislation and policy have been severely downgraded by the proposals in the Bill.” The committee

Competition watchdog calls for laws to address audit sector competition shortfall

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has warned of the need for legislative protection from lack of resilience in the audit sector to the possible loss of the so-call big four firms and from inadequate competition the sector. The competition watchdog’s recommendations in its final report on the audit industry include: separation of audit and consulting services in the big four (Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers); a mandate on the big four to work jointly with smaller competitors in the audit sector to enable challenger firms to develop the capacity to audit the largest companies; and the introduction of statutory regulatory powers to step up the accountability

Water Aid teams up with sugar producer in bid to cut global irrigation losses

Sugar producer, AB Sugar, in partnership with WaterAid and the Centre for Industrial Sustainability at the University of Cambridge, has launched a worldwide competition to generate new measures to address water loss in agriculture. All entries are to be submitted online during 19 and 20 June 2019. The Innovate Irrigation Challenge, said AB, seeks to “generate new ideas to reduce water losses from irrigation in sugar production, and beyond.”

Yorkshire Water’s first sustainability bond makes it 100 for London Stock Exchange

Yorkshire Water last week issued the London Stock Exchange’s (LSE) 100th green, social and environmental bond when it launched its first sustainability bond. The bond – a £350m 22-year issuance – was five times oversubscribed as investors placed bids to the value of £1.9bn. LSE said this was “a testament to Yorkshire Water's comprehensive sustainability framework”. Liz Barber, director of finance and regulation at Yorkshire Water (pictured) said: ”Investors have responded very positively to our sustainable finance framework and the success of this issue confirms that we've taken the right approach. This is the first step in our plans to progressively move our debt portfolio into the framewor

MOSL puts 17 trading parties on report for poor performance

MOSL reported in the April edition of its Market Focus newsletter that 30 Initial Performance Rectification Plans (IPRPs) had been issued to 17 trading parties for poor performance. IPRPs are triggered when a trading party’s performance causes concerns over a period of three months or more, as measured against their peers and the Market Performance Standards (MPS). The plans seek to inform MOSL of the root cause of underperformance and its impact on the market, and to ensure the trading party concerned takes action to improve. MOSL monitors progress for six months and if significant improvements are not made, can escalate the issue to the Market Performance Committee (MPC) and/or Panel. MO

Labour peers call for government bite the bullet on difficult water resource questions

Labour peers have called on the government to set out a clearer strategy on water resources in a House of Lords motion to take note on the National Policy Statement (NPS) for Water Resources. Lord Adonis (pictured) said the draft NPS does not amount to a strategy, rather “a list of considerations” that need to be addressed in the development of a national strategy. In particular, he said of three key issues: “On the questions of whether we will or will not be building new reservoirs, will or will not have a national water grid or will or will not have mandatory water metering—three absolutely critical issues in terms of a water infrastructure plan—the government have ducked them all so far a

Arup and Jacobs land roles under EA’s new collaborative framework

Arup and Jacobs are among the companies appointed by the Environment Agency to support the delivery of its national capital programme under new collaborative working arrangements taking effect this month. Arup has been appointed to Lot 1 of the Environment Agency’s new Collaborative Delivery Framework (CDF) in the North East and Midlands regions. Jacobs has been appointed to Lot 1 in the North West and Thames & Anglian regions. There are six regions in all, and the framework runs for four years with an option to extend to eight. The CDF is part of the Agency’s Next Generation Supplier Arrangements (NGSA), which aim to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of capital projects

Cash-for-trash initiative to help tackle plastic pollution in Britain’s waterways

Green consultancy APEM has pledged to donate £1 to Keep Britain Tidy for every bag of litter its field scientists collect from waterways across the UK. The firm – a freshwater and marine ecology specialist – surveys watercourses at over 100 locations across the country every year, providing many opportunities for its field teams to collect litter. The head of APEM’s field team, Peter Dennis, said: “During our field work, we are astounded by how much plastic pollutes waterways. It’s tragic to see, as not only does it look unsightly, but it adversely affects our wildlife and ecosystems…We are working alongside organisations such as the Big Blue Ocean Cleanup, hoping to eliminate plastic at the

Between a block and a hard place

Thames Water has been forced to tackle a whale-sized blockage under the streets of Islington after discovering an industrial amount of solidified cement plugging three Victorian sewers. Thames staff will have to manually chip away at the rock-hard mass of at least 100 metres long and weighing 105 tonnes, at a cost of “at least several hundred thousand pounds”. Alex Saunders, Thames Water operations manager, said: “Normally blockages are caused by fat, oil and wet wipes building up in the sewer but unfortunately in this case it’s rock-hard concrete… This is not the first time damage has been caused by people pouring concrete into our sewers but it’s certainly the worst we’ve seen.” Thames has

Bill cuts feature high in fast-track draft determinations

Bill cuts headlined the draft determinations for companies fast tracked through the PR19 process, when Ofwat published them this morning. South West Water customers stand to save the most by 2025, with the average bill falling by £77. United Utilities customers will save £49 and Severn Trent customers £16 (see table). In addition, the companies will substantially expand their financial support schemes for those who find it hard to pay, including through social tariffs. Consumer Council for Water chief executive Tony Smith said, though: “Our research suggests Ofwat could still go slightly further in reducing bills, without eating into the essential investment Source; Ofwat that every company