Excerpts from THE  WATER REPORT 

March 2020 issue 58


REPORT Scottish water sector unites behind modest price rises to do the right thing by future generations.

REPORT Four firms hit the CMA trail after rejecting their PR19 final determinations.


REPORT Environmental protection and regulation post Brexit. 

INDUSTRY COMMENT Shifting power to customers and communities through social contracting.

INTERVIEW Isabel Kelly, founder, Profit with Purpose. 

FEATURE Portsmouth Water’s customer service success tracks back to people. 

FEATURE WaterAid wants water high on the agenda at COP26.

FEATURE Credit Suisse on prospects for global water investment.

FEATURE Social media: how are water firms doing, and why does it matter?

NEWS REVIEW Conservatives confirm top water team.


High road


CONTENTS            full contents of the magazine  

Chief executive of the Commission, Alan Sutherland, comments: “The Commission’s duty is to ensure that Scottish Water can deliver the objectives of the Scottish ministers at the lowest reasonable overall cost. The key question for the Customer Forum is  ‘what’s reasonable?’ –  and how smooth can we make the path between here and there.”


To mitigate the impact on customers, the Commission has sought to model a transition in charges over the full 19 years available from the start of the next regulatory control period to the net zero emissions deadline of 2040.

Three elements will be material for Scottish Water and the Customer Forum in coming to a price conclusion for 2021-27:



Taken together, company responses and particularly the arguments of the appellants suggest this is a pivotal moment for water and water regulation. Leaving Bristol’s specific issue aside, having three large, well-respected, high-performing water companies reject Ofwat’s decisions is not business as usual.


29 NEWS REVIEW New wholesaler performance metric, R-MeX, to be introduced from April.


30 INTERVIEW Business Stream chief executive, Jo Dow, on growth and ongoing market challenges.


34 NEWS REVIEW Ofwat revokes Tor Water’s licences.



Some of data suggests the water sector could be falling short, according to Paul Sutton, an independent digital marketing consultant who spoke to The Water Report. Social media, he says, has given consumers “more of a direct route to organisations,” Sutton says. “If you go back 15 years it could be quite difficult to get directly to an organisation. Nowadays the communication routes are generally pretty open, for good or bad. That’s the key thing. It’s just opened up that communications landscape.”

That is why having a strong social media presence is so important for a company, Sutton explains.“There’s two sides to why it’s important. Firstly, there’s the ability to gain visibility among a lot of people. Increasingly nowadays that necessitates having an advertising budget to go alongside it because social networks have monetised what they do. If an organisation really wants to get in front of its target audiences it usually has to pay to do that. But the targeting options are extremely good and extremely powerful.



I feel comfortable with the idea that we are going to need to invest more. It’s very difficult to make any case otherwise.”                          Alan Sutherland


Scale and sustainability

The desire to buy a large customer book was driven by need, Dow explains: “There was an absolute recognition that economies of scale are so important, particularly in the English market. Where despite all of our success with organic growth and the acquisition of Southern, we were still a relatively small player compared to our bigger competitors.”

Business Stream has competed well in terms of switching. According to MOSL’s figures it has been a leading net acquirer of


new business in England since the market opened. Dow says there are two key things in play here: Business Stream’s day-one understanding of customers expectations gleaned from nine years in the Scottish market before England opened its doors; and its strong reputation as an organisation that cares about high quality service delivery and the environment, not just price.


The service claim is borne out in Consumer Council for Water’s complaints data. Business Stream attracted fewer complaints than the industry average in 2018/19.