Water companies should prepare for another dry winter

Dec 06, 2006

Water companies must be prepared in case there is another dry winter and ensure that they have sufficient supplies to meet next summer's demands, Ofwat said today.

It said that companies had been successful in meeting demand this summer which was one of the driest periods in south east England for more than 70 years. Their actions and that of customers who heeded messages to conserve water had limited the effects of the drought in the region.

But customers were unhappy about the restrictions placed on their water use, particularly where companies such as Thames Water had failed to meet their leakage targets. Severn Trent and United Utilities also missed their targets. They were, however, met by the vast majority of the 22 water companies in England and Wales, where nationwide leakage was cut by more than 30 Ml/d last year during the period 2005-06.

Ofwat has warned that if a company persistently fails its leakage targets it will take enforcement action as it did against Thames Water earlier this year.

Dr. Melinda Acutt, Ofwat's Director of Network Regulation, said: "Although south east England experienced one of the most severe droughts of the last 70 years, its effects were limited by the actions that companies took and their customers' support in using water wisely. But the drought may not be over yet and the industry as a whole will need to remain vigilant.

"Companies must also look beyond the drought to ensure that supplies are safeguarded for the future. Companies will need to continue to encourage efficient use of water, including the use of metering where appropriate, develop new water resources where they are required, and manage leakage efficiently."

Companies' water supply and leakage performances for 2005-06, and the regulator's views on some of the issues that arose during the summer of 2006, are set out in Ofwat's Security of supply report, which was published on 16 November.

The report shows that the majority of companies are able on current trends to meet future demand for water. But two companies, Thames Water and Folkestone and Dover, are required to take action to ensure they can continue to achieve this. Ofwat has already taken action against Thames requiring it to reduce leakage from its mains by nearly 20 per cent over the next four years. Folkestone and Dover, recently granted Water Scarcity Area Status by the Government, has launched a programme to meter around 90 per cent of domestic customers, which is predicted to reduce consumption.

The report also shows that the amount of water people use has remained stable over the last 10 years although there have been annual variations. Consumption per person in metered homes fell in the two years up to 31 March 2006, with several companies in the south of England reporting a big drop over 12 months prior to that date. This is likely to have been due to restrictions and a good public response to calls for water efficiency. Metering has continued to increase by around two per cent per year with 28 per cent of homes now being charged by this method.

Customers want confidence in the sector's approach to leakage and Ofwat has now started a review of the way in which it sets targets to take more account of environmental and social costs, and is expected to issue the findings next spring.

Ofwat is a member of the Government-led Water Saving Group, playing its part in encouraging the efficient use of water. It has developed a good practice register on water efficiency, which is launched on the Ofwat website. This will include examples of best practice within the industry, to encourage companies to consider adopting initiatives which have proved successful elsewhere.

The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) is the economic regulator of water and sewerage companies in England and Wales. It exercises its powers in a way that it judges will allow companies to carry out their functions properly, and finance them. Its duties include protecting the interests of consumers, wherever appropriate by promoting effective competition.

Further information:
Centre City Tower
7 Hill Street
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Tel: +44 (0)121 625 1300 / 1373
Fax: +44 (0)121 625 1400
Email: mailto:enquiries@ofwat.gsi.gov.uk
Web: www.ofwat.gov.uk


Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat)




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