Tories back continuation of bill rebate for South West customers

The Conservative Party pledged in its manifesto, published yesterday, to continue to pay customers in the South West a water rebate, should it be returned as the next government. South West Water customers currently receive a £50 bill rebate from public funds – a payment designed to address the unfairness of 3% of the nation’s population supporting the £2bn Clean Sweep programme to clean up a third of the country’s bathing waters. The current support programme is guaranteed until 2020. The Conservative manifesto also pledged to enhance the powers of the Competition and Markets Authority “to tackle consumer rip-offs and bad business practices”.

Householders baffled by water bill jargon

All but a half of UK household customers struggle to understand their water bill while 12% don’t even read them according to research findings commissioned by South Staff Water’s billing software stablemate, Echo Managed Services. The researchers surveyed 1,000 UK households and found that one in seven billpayers said their supplier used confusing jargon in their bills and other communications with customers. And only 39% of customers thought their supplier was making an effort to connect with them in a clear and simple way. However, Echo reported that 17% of UK households found the language in certain providers’ bills easier to understand following the changes. This it said, was in line wit

Cranfield University sets up scholarships to develop water leaders

Cranfield University and the International Water Association (IWA) have set up 15 new postgraduate scholarships to develop the water scientists and engineers of the future. Director of water at Cranfield University, Professor Paul Jeffrey, said: “These scholarships will help develop the next generation of leaders that we desperately need in the water industry both in the UK and around the world." Executive Director of the IIWA, Professor Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, said: “IWA believes that innovators and institutions can develop nimble and affordable ways to leapfrog the legacy of clunky, costly, centralised, top-down policies and infrastructure that burden much of the world. We believe that

Fall in property development sales shaves half-year operating income at Severn Trent

A fall in property revenue at its Business Services was the chief contributor to a 4.3% fall in group reported interim profit before interest and tax (PBIT) at Severn Trent Water patient, Severn Trent, to £286.3 m with no significant underlying adjustments for the six months to 30 September 2019. Group profit before tax was down £22.9m to £180.7m on revenue up £28.5m to £910m. PBIT at Severn Trent Water was down 3.1% to £260.1m The Business Services segment reported PBIT down £7.4m at £29.9m was hit by a £6.2m dropping revenue from property sales to £12m. As well as property development the Business Services operation’s main businesses are operating contracts in the UK and Ireland, renewable

Exceptional items level up United Utilities' reported interim pre-tax fall

Adjustments, particularly dry weather costs and a fair value loss on debt and derivatives in the previous year levelled up a reported pre tax profits slump of more than £60m at United Utilities for the six months to 30 September. Underlying interim pre tax profit was up £4m year on year to £244m. Dry weather exceptional adjustments during the previous first half came in at £25m. That along with fair value losses of £43m last year following gains in the current report period at £62.6m offset a reported £64.5m fall in income to £195.1m. Underlying operating profit up 6.5% to £391.7m reflecting a rise in interim revenue of £18.9m to £935m and a £13m cut in infrastructure renewal expenditure to

Helm: a new model for water ownership is needed – not re-nationalisation

Who owns water companies is less important than the objectives they are set and how they are controlled and regulated, according to leading regulatory economist, Professor Dieter Helm. In a new paper, Thirty years after water privatisation—is the English model the envy of the world?, Helm (pictured) concluded there is “almost no credible empirical research” on which to assess whether “the English model has honoured the promise that the advocates of privatisation made back in 1990. Is it better than everyone else’s model?” Following his own review in the bulk of the paper of subjects including efficiency, cost, finance and regulation, he concluded: “The performance of the water industry since

Labour manifesto silent on the price of renationalising water

The Labour Party reaffirmed its commitment to taking water and other essential services back into public hands in its general election manifesto, published last week. There was little information that hadn’t already been provided on the subject, and no further insight on the detail of plans to compensate shareholders. Responding, Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts reiterated the rationale for keeping companies in private hands, and said: “It’s incredible that Labour haven’t even bothered to set out a price for nationalisation. You can’t take over a major industry for free – one way or another, taxpayers and pensioners will have to fund the eye-watering, multi-billion pound cost.”

Ofwat amends Portsmouth licence to set a ten-year price control for Havant Thicket

Ofwat has altered Portsmouth Water’s licence to cater for a separate, ten-year price control for activities relating to the new Havant Thicket reservoir (simulation pictured), which will provide a cross-border supply to Southern Water. Ofwat’s provisions include a revised price control mid-period, to apply from year six onwards, to enable a series of revenue or cost reconciliation adjustments to be applied in parallel to the 2024 price review. It defined “Havant Thicket activities” activities as “(a) the planning, development, construction, operation and maintenance of the Havant Thicket reservoir and associated infrastructure or (b) the bulk supply to Southern Water that it facilitates”. Th

Water Plus warns of business blind spot on water supply disruption

Water Plus has warned businesses are poorly prepared for water supply disruptions, which will have consequences for their productivity. The country’s largest retailer released research which found only 11% of small to medium sized enterprises have a plan in place to operate without water, compared with around 34% of larger businesses. Meanwhile, 21% of the 600 firms surveyed who had a supply disruption of some kind over the last 12 months – from frozen pipes to an outage – saw productivity fall. Water Plus observed that the proportion of businesses proactively planning to deal with a water outage remains unchanged from an identical study it conducted in 2017, “indicating that increasingly u

Greenpeace unearths sharp decline in river samples and sites

Greenpeace has questioned the ability of a stripped back Environment Agency to protect rivers from polluters after reporting a steep decline in both the number of river sites checked and water samples taken. A Freedom of Information request from Greenpeace’s reporting arm, Unearthed, showed the Agency took water quality samples at 10,797 sites in 2013, but that the number gradually tapered off over the ensuing years, and saw a steep drop to 5,796 sampling points in 2018 — nearly 40% less than the year before. During the same period (2013-2018), Greenpeace found the number of water quality samples fell by 45% – from 160,000 to 87,000 – due to a switch to a more targeted, risk based approach.

Environment profession calls for mandate from next government on water standards

Environment professionals have called on the next government to mandate “standards for a range of sustainable water considerations” including “water efficiency labelling and an ambitious per capita consumption target.” In its “manifesto for the 2019 election.” the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management said its research findings show tightening minimum standards and building regulations for water using products could deliver around 1,000 Ml/d of savings in water use by 2065, compared to current ambition. in the manifesto, Britain’s climate and ecological emergency, CIWEM said tighter standards should also drive increased rainwater harvesting, green roofs “and other multi

Bathing water quality hits record high

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), in its 2019 bathing water quality report, has, for the first time, designated more than 70% of England’s bathing waters 2019 as excellent – the highest of the four quality categories used by Defra. The increase of 18 more excellent bathing waters was part of the record of 93.3% classified as excellent of good (see table). Seven waters were rated as poor. 420 bathing inland and coastal bating waters were tested with readings taken over the last four bathing seasons to determine the annual classification for that water. The 2019 results cover the period from 2016 to 2019. One bathing water was unassessed because there were no

Financial costs fuel half-year pre-tax loss at Welsh Water

Financial cost increases left Dwr Cymru Welsh Water with an interim loss before tax for the six months to 30 September 2019 up nearly 2.5 times to £119.9m from a loss of £35.1m at the same point last year. The not-for-profit company’s underlying interim pre-tax loss before financial costs was down £1m from the previous year at £27.4m While bond interest and other financial expenses were flat compared to the previous half-year, at £66.3m, the company reported a fair value loss on derivatives at £91.9m – up from a £6.7m loss in 2018. Interim operating costs were up £3.8m to £358.9m including a £7m fall in expenditure and an £11.6m hike in depreciation and amortisation. Operating profit was up

North East public sector buying hub issues water tender

Public sector buying hub the North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO) has tendered for water retail services, which it plans to make available to public sector organisations across the UK through a framework agreement. The Association of North East Councils, trading as NEPO, will shortlist licensed water retailers to tender in January 2020. The tender is for a single lot and will be awarded to a sole supplier. It comprises water retail services and associated ancillary services including Automatic Meter Reading and consumption management. The contract will be in place for July 2020 and run to the end of June 2024.

Severn Trent leads on gender diversity in the boardroom

Severn Trent Water is among the UK leaders in gender diversity and the number of women occupying senior leadership roles according to findings from a recent review. The Hampton-Alexander Review, which monitors the gender balance in more than 20,000 senior leadership positions in FTSE 350 companies, ranked Severn Trent as the league leader among utilities for the number of female board and executive committee members. The review report showed the company third in the FTSE 350 for women holding senior positions. Just under half of its board are women. Severn Trent appointed Christine Hodgson (pictured) as its new chair in April to become becoming the second ever FTSE 100 company to have a fem

Safety fears at Northern Ireland's biggest reservoirs stymie development

Northern Ireland's two largest reservoirs, Silent Valley and Ben Crom, are at the centre of a growing row over safety that has resulted in a block on decisions on a significant number of developments downstream of the two facilities. Northern Ireland Water has confirmed that the latest regular statutory inspection of the reservoirs highlighted that work was needed “to ensure the reservoirs continue to remain safe into the future”. The facilities supply much of the capital, Belfast, as well as business and domestic customers in Co Down. Meanwhile the local planning authority, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, acting on the advice of the Province’s Department for Infrastructure, has ins

Irish Water sewage treatment repairs too slow says environment watchdog

The pace at which Irish Water is fixing the legacy of deficiencies in the country’s waste water treatment infrastructure is too slow, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has complained. The agency's latest report on urban waste water treatment (covering 2018) highlighted that raw sewage from 36 towns and villages was still being released into coastal waters and rivers. The document noted that raw sewage discharges would continue past 2021 in 13 locations. EPA director Dr Tom Ryan said: “ We are seeing repeated delays in providing treatment for many areas and it is not acceptable that 13 towns and villages will still have no waste water treatment by the end of 2021. Irish Water must sp

London’s power network chief reported as frontrunner for Thames Water top job

Media reports have placed chief executive of London's electricity network operator, UK Power Networks, Basil Scarsella, – as the front runner for the top job at Thames Water. Another candidate on the shortlist is understood to be currently in a senior role at another water and sewerage company. Although Thames executive chairman, Ian Marchant, said he wanted to have a name in the frame by autumn, nothing is now expected to be confirmed until after the general election and final determinations announcement.

MOSL seeks budget boost to make water market easier to work in

MOSL will seek a budget increase of up to 10% when it consults on its draft 2020-21 business plan, from 22 November. It shared preliminary details with wholesale and retail leaders at its CEO Forum this month. MOSL argued the increase would allow it to deliver better value for money for members by delivering excellent core services and reducing the friction and high indirect costs of operating in the market. It will also be able to invest in initiatives with a market-wide benefit, such as the bilaterals project, which will ultimately reduce trading parties’ operating costs. The consultation will run until 20 December, with the final business plan set to be published on 17 January 2020, for v

Water UK appoints former energy retail body leader as new chief

Ex-journalist and former leader of industry trade body, Energy UK, Christine McGourty, will take the reins from Michael Roberts as Water UK chief executive on 16 December. McGourty (pictured) has extensive experience in regulated industries and trade bodies, leading the corporate affairs functions at Centrica, British Gas and Energy UK, as well as serving as a non-executive board member at Smart Energy GB. Her most recent role was as chief corporate affairs officer at engineering and technology company Laird. Prior to entering the corporate world, McGourty was a journalist for more than 20 years, including reporting on science, technology and environmental issues for the BBC and the Daily