As of April 2017, eligible companies now have the opportunity to choose who manages their water and waste water, an option that was only previously available to large organisations (using over 5 million litres a year in England). The change in legislation will allow around 1.2 million more customers to choose their retail water service provider.
Following a consultation and review, the Water Act 2014 was introduced, setting out the framework for the reformation of the entire water market. The new water retail scheme, which has been modelled similarly to the Scottish Water Act introduced in 2008, has been introduced to create competition, encourage greater innovation and drive efficiency in levels of service.
The water market will operate in a similar way to the current utility markets. Licenced regional water companies/wholesalers will sell water services to licenced retailers. Wholesalers are responsible for providing water and waste water services to retailers and their continued responsibilities include maintaining the water pipe networks, managing the physical supply of water and the treatment of waste water, etc.
Retailers are responsible for billing, meter reading, customer services, efficiency improvements etc. They will manage your account and support you in managing water within your premises. This provides you as the customer freedom and opportunity to ensure you get the right package for your business.
The main benefits businesses can expect from this change:
- Consolidated billing – Useful for organisations with sites nationwide. Purchasing your water through one retailer rather than managing a multitude of bills from providers across the UK will reduce administration time.
- Improved efficiencies and service – Water consumption management, better monitoring and support in delivering water efficiency measures will help you as the customer to manage your water use more efficiently.
- Financial savings – There is increased potential for retailers to be more competitive on price. However, true savings for your business will be realised through the additional services and improvements in efficiency mentioned above.
- Reduced carbon emissions – For every 1000m3 of water that is reduced, the associated carbon saving is around 1.4 tCO2e. While these savings are directly attributed to the supplier, organisations can still report these savings through scope 3 emissions reporting.
It is strongly advised to contact your water provider to understand what options are available to you, and start talking to other water retailers to find out is available on the market. Remember, they want to attract your business so think about the service you need and find one the matches your needs. There is also the option of using third party intermediaries (TPI), who will be able to do the work on your behalf but may charge for the service.
For more information on how to switch, which organisations will be supplying retail water services, and to see if you are eligible visit www.open-water.org.uk.