The water industry has unveiled an ambitious move to increase water bills £156 annually by 2030. The move is intended to finance improvements to the sector and drastically reduce the amount of sewage discharge. If endorsed, the increased tariff will capacitate the water companies to substantially elevate their infrastructure budget, amounting to £96bn, and fund the construction of ten new reservoirs.
This proposal emerges amidst public displeasure related to ongoing foul sewage discharge into seas and rivers and persistent inflation issues. The water industry regulator, Ofwat, is currently contemplating the endorsement of the proposed plans.
Granting approval to the proposals would equip water companies with a substantial budget, championed as “record-breaking investment proposals,” set to enhance the nation’s water supply longevity. Credited to be presenting “the most ambitious sewer modernization plans since the Victorian era,” Water UK, the industry body, predicates a quarter reduction in leaks compared to statistics from 2020 by the decade’s end.
By 2030, it believes it can reduce the number of sewage spills into our waterways by more than 140,000 every year. In 2022, water bodies recorded over 300,000 instances where sewage was dumped into oceans and rivers.
While the upgrade expenses are anticipated to be distributed over numerous decades, the sanctioning of the schemes by the regulator could mean an average increase of £84 in annual bills in 2025, ultimately scaling to an extra £156 by 2030.
While the investment blueprints have been generally lauded by the Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, she insists that Ofwat should maintain checks to ensure that customers do not bear the expense of poor service delivery. Coffey added that the water companies should now rise to the occasion to execute the critical changes to benefit forthcoming generations.
However, Feargal Sharkey, a clean water advocate, labelled the industry’s plans a “breathtakingly catastrophic strategy.” He argued that Ofwat had previously confirmed that water companies had been furnished with funds required to establish, develop, and maintain a sewage system equipped to properly handle sewage.
Just last week, Ofwat commanded the water companies to repay £114m to consumers by decreasing bills due to missed crucial targets. All but five of the scrutinized water providers will need to refund their customers by minimizing their fees in 2024-25, rather than offering a lump sum refund.