These Leaks We Don’t Need!

It seems that all water companies in the UK have been privatised, and are now overseen by a government department called Ofwat.

As the result of a couple of articles on water leaks, namely –

Most water companies not required to cut leaks before 2015 despite drought
Half of water companies not required to cut leaks, figures show

I decided to look at the Ofwat website to try to ascertain what they actually do to help the customers. They claim:-

“Protecting customers is central to our role as the economic regulator of the water and sewerage sectors – it is one of our primary statutory duties. We face a number of major new challenges that could affect the services we all rely on every day. To continue protecting customers in the face of these challenges we need to ensure we have the capability to be agile in responding to emerging or changing risks, and (where necessary) take swift and decisive action.

That is why we are adopting a risk-based approach to regulation – a significant change in how we identify and deal with risk.”

So much for the top-level blather, but what does it all mean?

If you look at “Valuing Every Drop”, it seems that they may have an idea about what they are supposed to be doing after all:-

“We have identified some key issues which show that there are examples of inefficiency – and potential inefficiency – from resources, through delivery, to the water that we all use. These include:
over- or under-abstraction of water in different areas
the relatively small amount of water transferred between different regions
potential to improve on current levels of leakage
scope for household and non-household customers to use water more efficiently

Ultimately, it is customers who pay the price for these problems. They pay for any inefficient investments. They pay for wasted water – whether or not they waste it themselves. And they bear the risk of higher prices or more frequent water use restrictions if supplies become unsustainable in the future.”

Unfortunately, in the next paragraph, they scupper that assumption by saying –

“Traditionally, Government and regulators have responded to individual problems with individual solutions – such as leakage targets. This has often led to a detailed regulatory approach, which can stifle innovation, and distract regulated companies from delivering the best outcomes for customers. It makes more sense to find sustainable solutions that tackle the root causes of any problems.”

So this is why companies are not being asked to cut leaks – because innovation might be stifled? I don’t believe it!

If you couple that with the fact that prices are reviewed only every 5 years, and that the companies are now being asked to submit a risk and compliance statement and publish a suite of key indicators, all of which they do themselves, it becomes apparent that Ofwat has taken an extreme “hands-off” approach to regulation.

So extreme, in fact, that I would ask what the heck they do with all the spare time they must have!

In addition to all of the above, I see nothing on Ofwat’s site to indicate what would be done if any of the available water catchment area was to be taken out of commission, as commonly happens during a flood, and floods seem to be more and more frequent in the UK than ever.

If you cannot replenish groundwater reserves and reservoirs because of drought, your only recourse is to save EVERY drop of water possible. That means leaks in the system take on a much higher priority than before, as the customers have no direct control over them.

Don’t fool around. Set all leakage targets to ZERO – NOW!

And then go back to sleep for 5 years while we consider if your function is necessary or not!