Water Act to boost economy long-term

The new Water Bill may not have made front-page news when it received Royal Assent in mid- May. But it stands to mean notable improvements in the way the UK values and manages one of its greatest assets – and potential problems.

From the viewpoint of our major role in water management, Tubosider sees much to welcome in the Water Act 2014 that has gone on to the statute book.

For one thing, it is particularly wide-ranging, addressing not just how the resource is addressed nationally, but what can benefit consumers as ultimate stakeholders.

For example, businesses, charities and public sector customers will for the first time have the freedom to switch supplier from 2017. According to the Government, together with the other water market reforms set out in the Act, this will grow the economy by £2 billion over the next 30 years.

The Act is intended to reform the water industry to make it more innovative and responsive to customers and to increase the resilience of water supplies to natural hazards such as drought and floods.

It will also bring forward measures to address the availability and affordability of insurance for households at high flood risk and ensure a smooth transition to the free market over the longer term.

The main measures for the water sector include:

  • enabling all business, charity and public sector customers in England to switch their water and sewerage supplier
  • establishing a cross-border arrangement with Scotland
  • enabling businesses to provide new sources of water or sewerage treatment services
  • developing a national water supply network by making it easier for water companies to buy and sell water from each other
  • enabling owners of small-scale water storage to sell excess water into the public supply
  • enabling ministers to set the level to which a water company needs to plan to cope with droughts
  • enabling developers and new water or sewage companies to connect new building developments to the water mains and sewerage system
  • improving the regulations relating to merger of water sewage undertakers
  • providing Ofwat a new over-arching duty to take greater account of long-term resilience and changes to improve Ofwat’s regulation of the water industry

The Act includes additional measures to restore the sustainable abstraction of water and improve the way water resource management and drought planning are managed.

It also encourages the use of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) by clarifying that building and maintenance of SuDS can be a function of sewerage undertakers.