Farmers are interested in both saving money and value added services in the new water market – if the price is right.
An online and telephone survey of eligible farm businesses undertaken by the National Farmers Union found awareness of the changes being introduced on Saturday at 46%. However 72% supported the concept of water competition, and 37% said reducing the cost of mains water was a high priority.
There seemed little prospect of farmers switching purely for volumetric price discounts, given these are set to be very low. Only 6% said they would switch for a 1-2% saving, while 40% said they would need to save at least 11% to change supplier. However there was inherent interest in value added services, which if delivered at a reasonable price, could lead the farming segment to be active. The services in question were:
79% were interested in leak detection. The NFU said: “Given the nature of farms (large ground area, rurally isolated, relatively long lengths of pipework on the customer’s side of the meter) this is not surprising.”
Around half were interested in smart meters, grey water recycling equipment and better billing (standardised and/or e-bills)
Around a third were interested in water fittings regulations audits, water efficiency audits; pipe and drain maintenance/repair insurance; and onsite water treatment.
Although lower than the total number, of those who showed interest in each service there were considerable numbers who were willing to pay for them: insurance (79%); onsite water treatment (65%); leak detection (56%); and grey water recycling (49%). Less popular ‘paid for’ services were smart meters (32%), water auditing (35%), water efficiency services (30%), water fittings regulatory compliance (26%) and standardised electronic billing (22%).
One sticking point might be that 57% described the current level of service provided by their existing water company supplier as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.