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Rosy view of water industry


I note that your supplement Privatised Water - the first decade was supported by the water companies which perhaps explains the glowing success story format of the document.

Only in the introduction could I find any reference to the role of the regulatory regime in this success story, and then only one of them, the economic regulator Ofwat, Why no mention of the Drinking Water Inspectorate or the Environment Agency?

Let's be honest about this post privatisation transformation: it is not altruism on the part of the water companies, but legislation and regulation that has delivered the environmental improvements, often in the face of considerable resistance from the water companies themselves.

Virtually all of the water companies boast of their achievements in reducing leakage, yet mandatory leakage targets imposed by the Government in 1997 were necessary to bring about this change. Left to the their own device many companies would still have leakage levels around the 30%-40% mark.

If a new wastewater treatment works is required to meet the EU Bathing Water Directive what will a water company's approach be? One that delivers the best quality effluent?

No, the motivation will be to produce an effluent that will just meet the standard at the lowest cost, so as to deliver profits for the shareholders.

But who can blame them for this?

After all they were set up as private companies, so is it realistic to expect them to behave in the interests of the environment and the wider community?

David Howarth (M)

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