Excerpts from THE WATER REPORT
November 2021 issue 76
FULL STORIES AVAILABLE ONLY IN THE MAGAZINE IN PRINT AND PDF
CONTENTS full contents of the magazine
REPORT The case for Outcomes Based Environmental Regulation.
REPORT SPS respondents call for more clarity.
REPORT Asset Maturity Management Assessment.
REPORT Moody’s outlook for PR24 returns.
INTERVIEW WaterAid’s Hasin Jahan heads to COP26.
REPORT Hampshire plumps for Havant.
FEATURE Water neutral development.
REPORT Sewage pollution furore.
NEWS REVIEW Statutory protection for chalk streams.
FEATURE Thames’ Smarter Water Catchments.
INDUSTRY COMMENT Net zero: hare or tortoise?
REPORT C-MeX and D-MeX results.
REPORT CCW annual complaints.
REPORT Northumbrian’s hybrid Innovation Festival.
INDUSTRY COMMENT Innovation culture.
REPORT Ofwat pushes open data.
NEWS REVIEW CCW’s PR24 manifesto
The work builds on Wessex’s tradition over recent price reviews of arguing for simpler regulation, based on outcomes, using markets. The new report, OBER: Enabling the water sector to make its contribution to the 25-Year Environment Plan, adds two things.
First, a dispassionate, hard economics lens that is difficult to argue with. At a high level, Frontier calculates that given £13bn annual catchment services spending, and a “cautious” 10% cost saving from OBER on 40% of that amount, we stand to save £10bn in NPV terms to 2050, with social and environmental benefits on top.
Second, and without being prescriptive on detail, it pitches two clear requests of regulators to make OBER a reality.
Catchment initiatives programme manager at Thames Water, Helena Soteriou, explains how the company found, when building its PR19 business plan, that it simply didn’t have robust evidence to demonstrate the cost beneficial nature of partnership working and systems thinking in catchments. In fact she says this is a “massive challenge”.
So the company was delighted when Ofwat backed its request to fund a set of Smarter Water Catchment trials in AMP7 to build the evidence base, and accompanied these with a flexible Performance Commitment with associated Outcome Delivery Incentive against which Thames could be held to account. Soteriou says: “Everyone talks about the opportunity to develop multiple benefits, the opportunity to think differently and to balance up our priorities better with others in the catchment. The trials are unique in having set specific funding to demonstrate a new way of working.”
Thousands of emotive photos, cartoons, reports from ‘whistleblowers’, and celebrity Tweets later (including from Gary Lineker and Deborah Meaden, for instance, as well as Feargal Sharkey), and whatever had prevented Defra from supporting the Wellington amendment in the first place was swept aside. It had said existing storm overflow provisions in the Bill were sufficient, on top of which some MPs defending their voting choice pointed to concern for the taxpayer footing the at least £150bn bill.
Outrage from the public can, it seem, touch political sensitivities unreached by the likes of EDM data, calm arguments from eNGOs, or water company chief executives giving evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry.
Five years is a time-honoured period for a business to take stock on most ongoing activities. Northumbrian reports a “success” rate for projects emerging from the five years of Innovation Festivals at four out of ten. But what makes a project a success?
Northumbrian’s innovation director, Angela MacOscar, explains that, following each festival, Northumbrian places the pick of the projects into a pipeline each to be assessed further. “Although the festival is over, the hard work is only just beginning,” she says. “We work to bring each of the ideas into the real world to eventually make a value-added product and most importantly a difference to our customers.” Success, she says, is when they pass through the pipeline to be embedded in Northumbrian’s business.
Accent reported that all participants were also asked to think more generally about dealing with the water company’s developer services team and to say what they would personally view as being the three most important things they look for in terms of how the service is delivered.
“15% mentioned ‘communication – including ‘internal’ as the most important aspect.
"Ease of contact’"was most important for 13%, and ‘responsiveness’ was most important for 11%. "Cost – value for money" was only mentioned by 6% as being the most important aspect but a further 18% did said it was second or third most important.”
The news came in an interim update Southern provided on its plans for Hampshire – where there is such a pinch point in water resource terms that RAPID, the joint regulatory team under whose auspices any new water resource infrastructure will be agreed – set up a special ‘accelerated’ gate process to ensure provision is made ahead of a regulatory deadline in 2027.
In accordance with the Section 20 agreement the company has with the Environment Agency, it must use "All Best Endeavours" obligations to deliver an appropriate long-term solution by the agreed date. This will contribute to achieving a permanent reduction in abstraction from the Test and Itchen whilst still delivering on water supply obligations.
Choosing new appointment and variation (NAV) sites in particular is in pursuit of more effective partnership working with NAVs. Barnes observes that sector wide, “there’s a policy problem there” with doors needing to be opened to let NAV initiatives flourish. Two NAVs – Albion Water and BUUK Infrastructure (the parent company of Independent Water Networks) – are part of the partnership team, and the project is seeking three sites on which to conduct trials.
Exactly which sites will ultimately be chosen remains work in progress, with considerations including which developers are involved and which sites achieve licences and are ready to go when the team is ready to begin implementation.
While MOSL will be there to offer support, the plan is for the assurance strategy it used for C1 to remain, but in a “lighter touch” form. Gilbert explains that trading parties are now able to access the hub itself, so that part of the journey is completed. Moreover, that it cannot sustain the amount of engagement and support it provided to some trading parties for the first process.
While some retailers and wholesalers crossed the line quickly, others needed considerably more support. “I wouldn’t say we dragged anyone across the line, but it was touch and go with some companies at times,” he recalls. In the process, he says some made useful observations about how to make things simpler, which will be built in going forwards.
MOSL commented: “We would note the continuous strong performance of trading parties across all the reviewed service areas. While many scores had minimal or no change in comparison to last year…this assures MOSL that performance remains consistent and for the most part, good across all wholesalers.”
Among the changes evident from last year were significantly improved scores from Thames and South Staffs, while Bristol, Wessex and SES did worse overall.
Water only companies continued to perform well but last year sat entirely in the top half of the table, and this where were distributed throughout.
As part of this month’s talks, countries are being asked to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets that align with reaching net zero by the middle of the century – a 30-year target that will no doubt come round fast. While these will be largely focused on businesses, we believe we need a two-pronged approach to sustainability for everyone; making a business itself as sustainable as possible in all aspects, and getting to grips with the mounting issue of water wastage.
At Everflow, we follow zero waste principles such as paperless offices, using recycled products where possible and recycling whatever we can. And, with one of the goals of COP26 being to accelerate the phase-out of coal, we’re playing our part by making a concerted effort to switching to suppliers that source their energy entirely from renewables.
All of the above are simple measures any business can take to reduce their carbon footprint – at this stage, there’s no excuse.