• What does the next 5 years have in store for the UK water sector?

Water Quality Monitoring

What does the next 5 years have in store for the UK water sector?

Feb 05 2024

The water industry has faced a storm of criticism for its performance on river pollution, bathing waters and water leakage. At the same time, climate change and other factors are increasing concerns about water availability. In response, the water industry has proposed a major investment programme that will be reviewed this year – during the cost-of-living crisis and an election year. Whether the industry’s plans are permitted in full or in part, the water sector supply chain is set for a very busy asset management period (AMP) 8, 2025 to 2030.

Now that the water companies in England and Wales have submitted their five-year investment plans, the proposals will be scrutinised and challenged by Ofwat before final decisions are made in December 2024.

Combined, these plans amount to a massive £96 billion programme of investment in water infrastructure – the biggest in the sector’s history and almost double that in the current period. This is equivalent to about 40% of the rest of Europe expenditure combined, and is designed to secure water supplies and make significant inroads into the environmental challenges.

If approved, this level of investment will result in a significant increase in water bills, and people will rightly want to see results from any increases that Ofwat allow.

If approved, the plans will include:

  • The development of up to ten new reservoirs and up to nine new desalination plants.
  • New cross-country pipes carrying water from the North to the drier South.
  • Greater investment to reduce storm overflows.
  • Targeting 90% less phosphorous from water companies by 2027 than in the 1990s, in line with the Environment Act’s targets for the most damaging pollutants.

Almost every storm overflow is now monitored by an Event Duration Monitor, and the Environment Act 2021 is also driving the requirement to monitor water quality at every discharge - upstream and downstream – a requirement that will result in the installation of thousands of new monitors. According to Water UK, during 2024, water and sewage companies will collaborate to create a new independently overseen National Environment Data Hub to provide the public with up-to-date information on the operation of all 15,000 sewage overflows in England.

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