Excerpts from THE WATER REPORT
October 2021 issue 75
FULL STORIES AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE MAGAZINE IN PRINT AND PDF
CONTENTS full contents of the magazine
TWR EXPERT FORUM Net zero prospects ahead of COP26.
REPORT Future of the Corporation final report.
INDUSTRY COMMENT Net zero: route map or compass?
REPORT Water Breakthrough winners.
INTERVIEW Natasha Wiseman, Make Water Famous.
REPORT Rivers demand policy attention.
NEWS REVIEW Water comms go down the plughole.
INDUSTRY COMMENT Adaptive regulation and planning.
INDUSTRY COMMENT Mega projects and mega investment.
INDUSTRY COMMENT What drives differences in willingness to pay?
INTERVIEW Niki Roach, CIWEM.
INTERVIEW Skewb’s Shashi Seshadri and Ben Earl.
INDUSTRY COMMENT Unblocktober!
INDUSTRY COMMENT South East Water data share.
NEWS REVIEW £600m for Thames leakage.
The Environment Agency’s Stuart Sampson, who specialises in water resources and drought, says that in parallel with the push on joining up strands of water planning, there is a move to consider future resilience much more prominently as well.
“This isn’t just about the here and now,” he points out. Sampson explains that traditionally, policy lags behind need; statutory water resources management plans and drought plans were introduced in the 1990s, for instance, once it was clear they were necessary.
In Actions to recover England’s waters and wildlife, the Blueprint for Water coalition (under the wing of Wildlife and Countryside Link) called for stronger strategic direction and regulation from Government to improve England’s ailing freshwater environments. Ali Morse, Blueprint chair, observed: “At the moment, our waters are in a terrible state.”
The report identified three main strands of action the Government needs to prioritise:
-recover biodiversity through large-scale, strategic habitat restoration, and through protecting and enhancing biodiversity hotspots such as our internationally valuable chalk streams;
drive down pollution with an effective and fully resourced monitoring and enforcement regime, driven by ambitious targets to tackle pollution and address the water quality crisis; and
re-think our relationship with water to build a sustainable relationship with our blue spaces, delivering climate resilience, water security, and health and well-being benefits for our communities.
Since the launch of the Routemap, the companies have significantly improved reporting on the sources of their carbon emissions and energy usage data. However, there are still some inconsistencies with the reporting of carbon emissions related data. For instance, water companies use a bespoke carbon accounting workbook, which is updated annually, to determine their carbon emissions. Ideally, all water companies should report using the same methodology, but with different formats being adopted, the emissions profile of some companies is understated and true comparison across the industry is almost impossible. Whilst it appears good progress is being made, it is only when you look at the detail that you get a clearer picture.
This breadth of membership, is important because we all need to “lift our eyes up” and look for inspiration and ideas from others inside and outside of the sector to meet the pressing water and environmental challenges we now face. Roach believes a key role of the organisation is to enable its members domestically and around the world to connect, network and learn together; “to funnel those connections and find the links”.
She offers examples from the world of water and environmental management. First, the ecological crisis will require us to “challenge our choices” on traditional engineering solutions in favour of nature-based solutions. This route is new to everyone and every scrap of experience we can glean is valuable. Second, if we are to shift water demand down significantly in line with abstraction reduction ambitions, actors will need to collaborate in influencing consumers in ways hitherto unseen. “Water companies historically sent out Hippo bags and relatively unattractive shower heads and hoped for the best,” she recalls. Clearly that will no longer do.
The letter also reminded wholesalers that Project RISE recognised the importance of well-designed, targeted incentives on wholesalers to deliver improved outcomes for business customers and strongly supported reform of the Market Performance Framework. Ofwat said: "We were disappointed to see this important work delayed as a result of Covid-19 and would like to see market participants focus on reform of the MPF as a priority in order to improve trading party performance.”
In his covering letter, Black said: “If we see companies failing to support… [B-MeX and MPF review] work and/or attempting to delay progress, we will call this out and take further action if appropriate.”
He also pointed to the recent investigation into Thames Water on market data quality, pointing out: “This demonstrates that we are willing to use our full range of our regulatory tools if necessary.
Defra wants the water market to:
play a part in net zero target;
plan for future demand and improving water efficiency;
Improve customer engagement and collaborate with wholesalers to enable them to meet customers’ expectation and deliver social and environmental value;
improve customers services and complaints handling, and protecting vulnerable customers;
manage customer debt by raising awareness of the support available and effectively targeting support offerings before customers fall behind on their payments; and
work collaboratively to resolve market frictions so that the market can deliver improved outcomes for customers, society and environment.
The first process to go live in the hub was the verification of meters or supply arrangements, which is the most commonly raised bilateral request. Work is underway to review, agree and draft the code documentation for the next processes to be added to the hub from January 2022.
More than 400 bilateral transactions were raised via the new hub in the first four days and the system has performed well, according to MOSL programme director, John Gilbert: “The launch of the bilateral transactions hub and our first process is almost certainly the biggest development since the market opened in 2017.
“I’m pleased to say that the launch went as smoothly as we could have hoped and the system is performing well. It’s obviously very early days, but the early indications are extremely positive.
Mavin explains that tariff proliferation has occurred for various reasons, including wholesalers operating regionally and interpreting guidance differently over time, teamed with little compulsion (before market opening) for coordination.
A good example is the inconsistent approach wholesalers in different parts of the country have taken to surface water drainage charging: two identical consumers in different areas could face dramatically different costs because different wholesalers have based their charging policy on different things – 2010 Defra guidance versus meter size.
It’s not difficult to see why customers might see this as illogical or unfair.
The diverse estate has 400 water supply points, including council buildings, schools and sport and leisure facilities. Sefton secured a water self-supply licence in July 2020 and bulk switched its supply points that November. Here, Cllr Paulette Lappin and environmental management (utilities) officer Jon Williams comment on their self-supply experiences.
Q Why did you choose self-supply?
JW: The water market was too immature for me to be sure of value for money and the level of support we required through either tendering or framework routes. Doing nothing wasn’t an option. Self-supply appealed to me because it was quite simply the most financially responsible thing to do. Even before working on efficiency gains, I knew I could save a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money simply by not paying retailer margins as a self-supplier… Having previously not felt listened to as a water customer, joining my colleagues in Blackpool to give the public sector a greater voice in the market also appealed.
Q How has it delivered against your expectations?
JW: Through the Self-Supply User Forum we’re getting public sector water needs and perspectives on the agenda. I have Ofwat and MOSL actually coming to me to ask questions which means they are listening to customers. We didn’t have that before.
We have quarterly meter reads as a minimum standard now, above the statutory requirement. Accurate meter readings are giving us visibility of sites that might need focused attention to address. This unprecedented level of accurate data has also highlighted prior billing errors which we are now able to resolve.