Thames add two new non-executives to complete governance review

Thames Water has appointed two non-executive directors, to complete a review of its governance which the company said was designed to rebuild trust and increase transparency. Former chief of Ireland's national gas and water utility, Ervia, Michael McNicholas, and former senior Vodafone executive, Paul Donovan, take up their positions this week. They are among seven new board appointments made over the past 16 months. The review was launched by interim executive chairman, Ian Marchant, when he joined as independent chairman in January 2018.

Thames chief scores year as "not good enough" but buoyed on leakage

Thames executive chairman, Ian Marchant, has claimed the firm is starting to win in its battle with its notorious leakage problem telling THE WATER REPORT: “I feel like we have turned the corner on leakage.” Marchant (pictured) judged the firm’s performance for the 2018-19 financial year as “OK but not good enough,” and conceded that leakage was only “down by a dribble,” to 690Ml/day from the previous year’s 695Ml/day. He said the winter and summer extremes of the year had “cost 30Ml/day” but the company ended the year with a spot measurement of 606Ml/d – coincidentally its target for the coming year and its lowest for four years, said Marchant, adding: “The chance of keeping that for the w

Irish Republic set for water charges return

Up to 70,000 households in the Irish Republic could face water charges of up to €500 from next year if Irish Water gets the go-ahead to charge customers who waste water. The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities is due to decide soon on a proposal from Irish Water to charge households whose water consumption is above a fixed threshold set at 1.7 times the average household use of 345 litres a day. If the regulator consents to the plan, it will mean the limited reintroduction of water charges for homes, three years after their suspension because of widespread political and popular opposition. In its initial response to the utility proposal, the regulator indicated broad support for the p

Irish Water gets €1.1 billion state boost

State-owned Irish Water received €1.1 billion from the Irish government last year while its parent company Ervia gave €139 million to the exchequer. Figures published in the multi utility company’s latest annual report, for 2018, show that Irish Water spent €683 million on the Republic’s water supply system last year and received €1.1 billion from the government. The natural gas networks operator became part of Ervia along with Irish Water in 2015. The government intends splitting the group in 2023, at which point it plans that Irish Water will become a state-owned commercial utility. The separation plan is due to be submitted to ministers shortly. During 2018 Irish Water earned €982 million

Water UK: Labour re-nationalisation plans could seriously damage water services

The Labour Party’s plan to return water companies to public hands could seriously damage the provision and quality of water and sewerage services in England, according to Water UK. Responding to the Party’s Democratic Public Ownership and Clear Water papers, the trade body said the proposals: could create a future where decisions are driven primarily by short term political expediency rather than the needs of customers; mean the high levels of investment needed to improve services, enhance the natural environment and protect resources for the future are not sustained; stop far short of explaining how the big challenges faced by the water and sewerage industry – like climate change and an inc

Southern spared legal action as Ofwat hits firm with £126m penalty for sewage failure

Southern Water has confirmed it will not face any further action by “law enforcement agencies” (widely considered to include the Serious Fraud Office) relating to a wastewater case for which Ofwat imposed a record breaking £126m fine last week. Ofwat found Southern had significantly breached its licence conditions and statutory duties between 2010 and 2017 by failing to operate wastewater treatment works properly and by investing inadequately which led to equipment failures and release of wastewater into the environment. An Environment Agency investigation into the environmental impact of the incident is ongoing and could result in another financial hit for the company in due course. Ofwat a

Moody's downgrades Southern following licence breach penalties

Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Southern Water Services (Finance) to Baa2 from Baa1 and placed the ratings on review for downgrade. The downgrade followed Ofwat’s announced intention to fine Southern Water for significant breaches of its licence conditions and statutory duties. Southern will have to pay a penalty of £3m in this financial year and return some £123 million (in 2017/18 prices) to customers over the course of the next regulatory period. The penalty includes underperformance penalties the company avoided paying during 2010-17. Moody’s said its rating action reflected “the additional pressure that the planned £126 million fine and repayment to customers will exert on Sou

Northumbrian pays out more than £1m to green groups to atone for pollution

Northumbrian Water is to pay fines totalling almost £1.18m after the Environment Agency found it had committed several environmental offences. The company accepted responsibility for environmental offences in the North East and has agreed five Enforcement Undertakings (EU) – an alternative to prosecution when the impact is localised and unintentional. The agency expects the money to go to several environmental projects in the region The Environment Agency's environment planning and engagement manager in the North East, Fiona Morris, said the agency viewed Enforcement Undertakings as more balanced than fines for Northumbrian’s environmental offences because it was “beneficial to the environme

Watchdog finds performance alone is not enough to keep the customer satisfied

Water companies need to provide both an excellent service and manage their customers’ perceptions of services, if they are to keep customers satisfied, according to analysis from the Consumer Council for Water. Under pressure: the gap between performance and perceptions uses data the watchdog already collects to explore the relationship between customer satisfaction and water company performance in areas including bills, leakage and supply interruptions. It found: “In general, there is little correlation between consumers’ satisfaction with service and actual performance or bill levels. Only a moderate correlation was seen for satisfaction with water services and bill level. Weak correlation

Castle wins fourth major deal with Crown for public sector supply

Castle Water last week announced it had secured recommended supplier status for a further multi-million pound national framework agreement through the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), for the provision of water and wastewater services to the public sector in England. This is the fourth major CCS framework agreement Castle has secured – the first dates to 2017 when the market opened. The company is now experienced in carrying bulk transfers of English public sector customers. Castle Water chief, John Reynolds OBE, said: “I am delighted that our relationship with CCS and our CCS customers continues to strengthen. We understand the specific needs of our public sector customers to receive high se

WRSE kicks off stakeholder group to build multi-sector regional resilience plan

Water Resources South East (WRSE) has convened the inaugural meeting of a new stakeholder group which will support it to develop a multi-sector regional resilience plan. WRSE intends to shift from developing scenario-based strategies to a single, regional resilience plan which will ignore water company boundaries and consider the needs of other key water users in the region. As well as planning for severe drought events, the WRSE plan will identify, assess and plan for a wider range of risks – including flooding, freezing weather and other third party events. Meyrick Gough, WRSE technical director, explained: “This is very different from the approach WRSE has adopted up until now – in essenc

DEFRA updates its Single Departmental Plan

DEFRA has published an updated Single Departmental Plan, setting out its objectives and how it intends to achieve them. The department’s objectives are to: deliver a safe and ambitious departure from the EU, setting global standards in protecting and harnessing value from the natural environment; pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future; lead the world in food and farming with a sustainable model of food production; and become an outstanding organisation focused on making a difference, with world class delivery capability. DEFRA pointed out its agenda includes three flagship Bills: the Environment Bill, to embed environmental ambition and acc

Kellogg wakes up to self supply, as Olympos secures licences

Cereal producer Kellogg has applied for self-supply retail water and sewerage licences. Waterscan is supporting the manufacturer of popular breakfasts like Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies with its licence applications, and will take on responsibility for its retail functions as well as helping it save water. Ofwat, which is consulting on the application until 22 July, reported Kellogg wants to take more control of its water use, and has set itself targets including to implement water reuse projects in at least 25% of its plants and reduce its global water use by an additional 15% by 2020. Kellogg intends to self supply four sites in Manchester: one manufacturing plant and three warehouses. Aft

Waterwise flags fears to water minister over consumption consultation delay

Waterwise wrote to water minister Thérèse Coffey on 19 June to highlight its concern over the ongoing delays to the planned water efficiency consultation and evidence gathering. The letter was supported by CIWEM, Blueprint for Water, a number of water companies and WaterUK. The consultation, which was originally expected early in 2019 and most recently in May, was identified in DEFRA’s December 2018 Water conservation report, which is required under the Water Act 2003, detailing action taken and planned by government and industry to encourage efficient use and management of water. A call for evidence on setting “an ambitious target” for personal water consumption was expected to be accompani

Government appoints new permanent secretary at Defra

Prime Minister Teresa May has agreed the appointment of Tamara Finkelstein as the new permanent secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Finkelstein (pictured) is currently serving as the interim permanent secretary at Defra and was previously the department’s director general for EU Exit. Cabinet Secretary, Sir Mark Sedwill, said: “This appointment reflects not only the significant contribution she has made to the department to date, but also the knowledge and experience she brings with her from an array of other important roles in government.” Environment secretary Michael Gove said: Finkelstein was “an outstanding public servant I have very much enjoyed

Insights from the fast-tracked companies

Ofwat asked editor, of THE WATER REPORT, Karma Loveday, to interview the chief executives of the three water companies that have been fast tracked through PR19. You can listen to the podcasts from the links below: Steve Mogford, United Utilities Liv Garfield, Severn Trent Water Chris Loughlin, South West Water

NGOs call for green agriculture pledge as survey finds farmers are supportive

Environment charities have called on the government to give certainty to farmers over the future of agricultural policy that delivers environmental benefit, after an independent survey revealed the majority of farmers embrace the direction of travel. A survey of 500 farmers conducted by AgriSmart on behalf of Wildlife and Countryside Link showed 80% believe the health of the natural environment is important or very important for their farm business. Pollution prevention was rated by most farmers as deserving government funding in future farming policy, with more than half of farmers (56.2%) believing that activities which prevent pollution should be supported. Animal welfare (50.4%), habitat

Greenpeace calls for plastic reduction law after finding UK rivers contaminated

Greenpeace has urged the government to set legally-binding plastic reduction targets in the upcoming Environment Bill after a study released last week revealed every one of 13 UK rivers tested was contaminated with microplastics. Greenpeace scientists at the University of Exeter tested rivers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island: the Exe, Thames, Severn, Great Ouse Trent, Mersey, Aire, Derwent, Wear, Conwy, Wye, Clyde and Lagan. They found: all 13 UK rivers tested contained microplastics; five out of 13 rivers contained microbeads – which were partially banned in 2017; 1,271 pieces of plastic, ranging in size from straw and bottle-top fragments to microbeads less than 1mm across;

Industry salutes National Refill Day gains but points to the challenge ahead

The water industry celebrated the achievements of the Refill programme on National Refill Day on Wednesday with a parliamentary reception, the launch of many new water top-up stations, and a wide range of Refill activities up and down the country. Water UK announced at its Westminster reception hosted by Neil Parish MP that there are now more than 20,000 Refill stations where people can replenish their reusable bottles with free drinking water. Among the latest high street chains to join the “Refill revolution” were Greggs, Pret and Sweaty Betty. Meanwhile Network Rail unveiled a string of new fountains at many of the country’s busiest stations including London Victoria, Paddington, London B

United Utilities' chief operating officer to take up post as Cadent Gas boss

United Utilities’ chief operating officer (COO), Steve Fraser has been appointed the new chief executive of gas distribution network firm Cadent Gas. Fraser (pictured) will take up post in autumn. He joined United Utilities in 2005 and served as head of United Utilities Energy and Contracting Services and managing director, before being appointed COO and a board director.