Business market must pull its weight on water efficiency

The Environment Agency and Ofwat have told wholesalers and retailers to take a series of actions “as a priority” to boost water efficiency in the business market and therefore the contribution the business sector makes to the national water resource position.

In a joint letter to trading party chief executives from Ofwat’s Rachel Fletcher and the Environment Agency’s executive director for the environment and business Harvey Bradshaw, the regulators set out three required actions relating to:

  • 2024 Water Resource Management Plans;

  • Meter reads; and

  • Supply restrictions and other incidents

WRMP24

Within six months, wholesalers and retailers need to produce a joint plan of action setting out how they intend to work together to develop and deliver 2024 Water Resource Management Plans that deliver “significantly improved levels of water efficiency in the business sector”. The regulators suggested the Retailer Wholesaler Group’s new water efficiency sub group would be “ideally placed” to coordinate production of the plan.

Meter reads

Trading parties were told to support work to address the lack of complete, accurate and timely meter reads in the market, and to come forward with their own suggestions on going further.

Supply restrictions and other incidents

The regulators noted work to encourage good practice on communicating with customers when wholesalers need to introduce restrictions during supply shortages, but want to see more. “This is a good starting point but we think more could be done to proactively reduce and manage the risks and impact of any supply restrictions. For example, we expect wholesalers to gauge if and where restrictions on use may need to be prioritised, and to work with retailers to ensure this data is shared with customers in a timely manner.”

The idea of a joint letter was a recommendation from a Waterwise workshop on raising the bar on water efficiency for business customers last year.

The regulators pointed out the business retail market accounts for nearly a third of all water delivered to customers in England and therefore that improved business water efficiency could contribute significantly to meeting national needs, as set out in the Environment Agency’s new National Framework for Water Resources.