What might the future hold?
There ust be a limit to the regulator's drive for ever greater efficiencies from the water companies.
Nevertheless, the pressure will remain on the supply chain to bring in capital projects at lower and lower cost. Margin levels will be traded for the promise of larger shares of the work and this means even more work at unprofi table/ unsustainable margins.
Almost ertainly, the cost of setting up framework agreements with asset providers, and the time to achieve pay back on the investment in startup costs, will drive clients to appoint frameworks for longer periods. Five year frameworks coinciding with an AMP period have been the norm, but there are already indications that clients are considering 5+5 year deals, as seen in Thames and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water. It will we be interesting to see if clients actually appoint for 10 years at the start of AMP5, giving increased stability to the successful contractors and consultants but in turn locking the unsuccessful fi rms out of the market for a considerable time.
Whether or not they will still be there at the next re-selection remains to be seen.
It is also a critical time for research and development.
There was a time when process contractors and consultants made suffi cient margin to be able to fund a research programme into new or novel treatment processes. Those days are long gone, and are unlikely to return with current margin levels.