At Water UK we are pleased to have played a part in helping New Civil Engineer produce this special edition to celebrate 10 years of progress in our industry since privatisation. Ten years which have seen the industry invest over £30bn to deliver benefits for all our stakeholders - our customers, shareholders, company staff, the environment and the community at large.
We have better quality drinking water than ever before; our rivers and coastal waters are cleaner than ever and standards of customer service are also at an all-time high.
We now have a world class industry - an industry that has come of age under a system of medium-term incentive-based regulation.
The last decade has witnessed many examples of innovative engineering by the industry. We have regularly won awards for architecture, building and civil engineering. The way in which we conduct our business has also seen changes - all for the better. For example, there have been innovations in procurement, in developing partnerships with consultants and contractors and projects which are now regarded as benchmarks for other industries.
So what of the future? The periodic review of prices for 2000-2005 will allow at least £15bn to be spent in the next five years. This will be used in part to fund massive programmes of work-related to the Urban Waste Water Directive, due for completion in 2005. There will also be further programmes of work to improve rivers and coastal
waters through the elimination of untreated combined sewer overflows. Other programmes will be focused on improving drinking water quality and the reliability of supplies even further.
The drive for even more efficiency will demand even more innovation in engineering and managing projects from concept through to commissioning. If our industry has been setting the pace in working in partnership with others so far, we will have to become even smarter at it in the future if we are to deliver what our stakeholders want.
Planning ahead beyond the next five-year period becomes ever more difficult. In a long- term industry like ours, five-yearly cycles of investment are too short to make informed judgments on many of the issues involved. For example, water resource projects take upwards of 20 years to get from feasibility studies to construction; and that is assuming the planning process does not thwart projects en route. In an era when the effects of climate change are more often agreed than disagreed, the next decade should see the start of a new period of development to capture more winter rainfall in readiness for summer droughts.
We are already aware of many European initiatives that will ensure a healthy programme of work for the future - initiatives that will lead to even higher river and marine water quality.
As an industry we have been well served by the civil engineering profession over the past 10 years. To sustain our achievements in the future, we will need to build upon that relationship even more.