Farmers keen to reap the benefits of the water market – if the price is right

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’.