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Water only companies

England's 17 water supply companies are investing very large amounts of money in their basic infrastructure of sources, treatment and mains.

Improving water quality in response to ever-tightening standards has meant that pesticide removal plant and lining of mains has had high priority for the firms.

Among the many mains renewal schemes, the Dover spine main of Folkestone & Dover Water Services and the £12M Iver to Arkley main of the largest company, Three Valleys, stand out as being very large investments in relation to the size of the companies involved.

Reinforcement of strategic mains is vital to ensure continuity of supply in the face of the difficult to predict consequences of climate change. Coupled with this, the continuing programme of mains renewal has substantial benefits in reducing leakage. Demand control is being implemented wherever possible by encouraging customers to switch to metered supplies.

Compulsory metering is only possible in new developments but there are ways of pressing existing customers to install meters, as in Cambridge, where all clients who had declared they were users of hoses were given little option but to have a meter put in.

Dealing with possible cryptosporidium pollution of sources is a particular concern for the immediate future for several companies. Renewal of lead supply pipes is a major project for Bristol Water with its preponderence of customers in older properties.

Matching technical improvements, and the ever present need to improve service for customers, against Ofwat's upcoming determination is seen as a challenge by many of the companies.

NCE surveyed the companies, asking them key questions about their business, priorities of the last 10 years and challenges for the future. Their response is collated overleaf on pages 56 and 57.

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