North West Water became part of the first UK joint utility company when it joined Norweb in January 1996 to become United Utilities. United Utilities is now a £2,276M turnover operation which includes electricity, gas, telecoms, water and business-to-customer services. NWW's regulated activity is worth £967M.
Prior to privatisation it was North West Water Authority which was most vocal about the need for asset renewal. Measuring the size of sewer collapses by the number of buses which the craters could accommodate caught the media eye. Supply is less of a concern - while the Liverpool to Manchester corridor is one of the most intensely urbanised parts of the UK, to the north lie some of the country's least populated areas. The west-facing northern hills are also a prolific source of water.
For the North West, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, pressing problems were caused by an ancient and overloaded drainage infrastructure.
Cleaning up the industrial areas and renovating life-expired infrastructure has been the primary task for the past decade. North West boasts that it has had the biggest capital expenditure programme of the 10 water companies - a thumping £5,000M since privatisation. Of this £500M had gone into the Sea Change coastal waters programme by 1997, and another £500M has been used to clean up wastewater discharge into the Mersey estuary.
Substantial investments have also been made at more than 250 sewage treatment works and 600 combined sewer overflows have been improved. Some 570M litres/d of sewage is now treated instead of being run straight into the sea or the estuarial waters.
On the water supply side North West has refurbished or replaced more than 8,700km of mains and renewed or uprated 78 of its 200 water treatment works. It claims a 45% reduction in leakage losses compared with 1992- 93. The big task still to be completed is dealing with 265 combined sewer overflows in the five years of AMP3.
One a week has to be reconfigured to prevent untreated sewage getting into water courses or worse, streets.