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Water and sewerage firms need step change in innovation, warns regulator

Water and sewerage firms need to make a step change in innovation if they are to meet the challenges of ever rising customer expectations, population growth and climate change, water regulator Ofwat warned today.

The impact of recent weather – flooding in a time of drought – is just one short term example of the major long term issues that the industry has to start to tackle, it argued.

In its Statement of Principles, which outlines priorities for regulation for the period between 2015 and 2020, Ofwat says it intends to “send clear signals” to water companies on what they need to do, for example, by encouraging companies to trade water when supplies are low.

Other measures include enabling firms to increase innovation, for example by finding lower cost, lower environmental impact and lower carbon solutions.

“£98bn has been invested since privatisation, service for customers has improved significantly, our drinking water quality is among the best in Europe, and average bills are £120 lower than they would have been without regulation,” said Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn.

“But now we need to become smarter in how we value, manage and use water. This means the industry must focus on customers and show them how they are meeting their priorities.

 

Readers' comments (3)

  • The price of water is still too low in England. This discourages consumers from putting the appropriate value on it and changing their attitudes to how they use water. Equally, the WaSCs have little if any incentive to behave differently from the past. The Thames Tideway sewer tunnel, the London desalination plant; are old ideas and aim at the symptoms not the cause of problems. Panic by consultants just 'doing what the client wants' due to shortage of work also perpetuates this 'common-sense' approach. Why innovate? It is too risky for them and the rewards are not obvious - if they fail they will be reprimanded; so let's do it 'because we know it works"!

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  • The system locks you in to only looking five years ahead and going through a cycle of losing and re-learning skills and knowledge. This does not lend itself to innovation and long term thinking.

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  • Barry Walton

    I presume that Richard Ashley means that the charges for water are too low and that the use of rate elasticity will change behaviour. I seriously doubt that increasing charges will do that and may do no more than increase default and/or boost company profits. Also does he consider that the WoCs are doing the right thing and Wales does not have a charge/price issue? As for doing what works, what is so wrong with that when the fragility of the service becomes a headline issue in drought/neo-drought/threat of drought/drought-flood circumstances. It is all very well to talk about innovatiive solutions but inflating charges in not one of them.

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