Water UK represents and works with the major water and wastewater service providers. We are Working4Water.
Thirty years ago, the water industry in England and Wales was in a bad way. Owned and run by the state, starved of funding, failing to deliver a good service, and damaging the environment.
Since being brought under private ownership in 1989, there’s been a remarkable turnaround in this vital public service, delivering major results for customers and the environment.
Our mission is to provide customers and communities with world-class services, enhancing the UK’s quality of life.
Keeping life flowing
Water companies take water from rivers or from underground natural reservoirs, clean it up using state of the art treatment, ensuring that it is of the highest standard before it is pumped to homes and businesses.
When waste-water is taken away, it is done so carefully, with companies doing whatever they can to protect the environment.
58,000 staff work day in day out to deliver this crucial public service, and create an excellent product – drinking water of the highest quality – to keep life in our country flowing smoothly.
A Manifesto for Water
The water industry in England has set out an ambitious new vision for the 2020s with the publication of a Manifesto for Water.
It reveals plans for a major investment programme in services, a significant cut in leakage, an overall real-term reduction in bills, and a big increase in help for people who struggle to pay. It also includes a new programme for helping the environment which will see 8000 km of rivers cleaned and improved. More than £50 billion is planned to be spent on improving services, which represents a 13% increase on the previous 5-year business period.
The Manifesto for Water is available here.
Water UK’s full press release is available here.
New Statesman Event
The New Statesman, in association with Water UK, hosted an event titled Public vs Private: Is the water industry working for consumers and the environment?
Discussions focused on the water sector, assessing the effects of three decades of a private ownership model in England, reflecting on the current public and policy debate on nationalisation.
Water UK Parliamentary Reception 2018
Water UK held a well-attended summer reception in the House of Commons, which provided a welcome informal opportunity for parliamentarians and figures across the water sector to discuss topical issues.
The event was sponsored by the EFRA Select Committee Chair, Neil Parish MP who also gave a short speech along with APPG Water Co-chair, Angela Smith MP, and Water UK Chief Executive, Michael Roberts.
What’s been achieved?
What's been achieved since private ownership
A quid a day – trusted to deliver
The average water and sewerage bill in England and Wales is currently £415 a year, just over a pound a day1. That’s the delivery of water, the removal of your sewage, and the protection of the environment for the same cost as half a cup of high street coffee.
Com Res2 polling suggests that 83% of people trust their water company overall, and that 89% of people trust their water company to provide a reliable wastewater service and a good quality of water. Although trust is high, the water industry understands its role in providing an essential public service and continues to work to improve trust and confidence even further.
Increased investment and productivity
Water companies in England and Wales have spent around £150 billion improving pipes, pumping stations, sewers and treatment centres, and it continues to spend around £8 billion3 a year to keep on improving. That’s enough money invested to build Wembley Stadium 150 times, and enough ongoing investment to buy a new car every single minute.
Investment is now at roughly double pre-privatisation rates and is money that would not have been available under public ownership, especially during times of austerity.
A more reliable service
Customers are now 5 times less likely to suffer from supply interruptions, 8 times less likely to suffer from sewer flooding, and 100 times less likely to have low water pressure5.
Water companies have reduced leakage by a third since the 1990s, and it continues to be a top priority6.
Looking after our environment
By 2020, water companies will have invested around £25 billion into environmental work, putting in more advanced treatment methods to improve the quality of rivers and canals for example. This action will mean around 10000 miles of UK rivers have been improved and protected since 19929.
The Refill drinking water initiative that Water UK announced in January is aimed help to cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year. By creating a national network of refill stations where people can top up their reusable water bottles for free, public access to drinking water will be greatly increased12.
Strong customer satisfaction and customer help
Customer satisfaction levels for water and sewerage services are around 90%, and satisfaction for water supply services has been consistently very high for the past five years, with more than 9 out of ten consumers satisfied13.
Plans for the future
Water companies will invest £44 billion in England and Wales between 2015-2020 – that’s about
£2,500 per property. This will go towards15:
- Saving more than 370 million litres a day by tackling leakage and promoting water efficiency – enough saved to serve all of the homes in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds
- 4,700 fewer properties flooded by sewer water
- Cleaner water at more than 50 beaches
- Helping around 1.8 million people to pay their bill by 2020
Bills rose immediately after private ownership reflecting the need to invest, but they are now broadly at the same level at 1994 after inflation. Between 2015 and 2020, they will go down by an average of 5% in real terms and are projected to fall even further in the future16.
Under state ownership, the water industry would face competition for funding from vital sectors including education and healthcare. Funding for these sectors needs to be prioritised, yet the cost of nationalising the industry has been estimated at £86 to £90 billion, which is enough alone to fund every NHS workers’ wage twice-over17. That’s a considerable amount of money for the government to spend unnecessarily.
Water companies play an important role in local communities – contributing to our daily lives in ways that go far beyond our water services.
skills and education
A quick Q&A
Why should private companies deliver water and wastewater services?
What would happen if water and wastewater services were state-run again?
I heard that the UK used to be the ‘Dirty Man’ of Europe – have things changed?
There’s been recent pressure on water companies to do more for customers – aren’t they working in the public interest already?
What does the future hold for our water environment?
What does my water bill go toward?
What’s in our tap water?
How does water get to my tap?
What happens once I’ve flushed the loo?
Find Out More
- Water UK: www.water.org.uk
- Social Market Foundation: http://www.smf.co.uk/publications/water-nationalisation/
- Frontier Economics: http://www.frontier-economics.com/news/frontier-report-assesses-productivity-changes-english-water-sector/
- Centre for Policy Studies: The Cost of Nationalisation http://www.cps.org.uk/publications/the-cost-of-nationalisation
- John Earwaker, Private vs Public Ownership: http://www.first-economics.
- Clifford Chance, UK nationalisation: The law and the cost https://www.cliffordchance.com/briefings/2018/03/uk_nationalisationthelawandthecost.html
- NERA Economic Consulting, The impact of nationalisation of utilities on UK households’ savings and pensions – http://bit.ly/2ltSxuk
- Water UK, A briefing on the record and achievement of water companies – view here