Higher per cent of water companies’ profits must be redirected to infrastructure and keeping bills down, says CIPHE CEO
After Water UK issued an apology for not "acting quickly enough" to address sewage spills, Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, is urging water companies to direct more of their profits toward public safety.
It follows criticism of water companies after it was revealed that £1.4bn was paid to investors in dividends through 2022 despite being accused of breaching environmental permits. According to official environmental data, raw sewage was dumped into rivers and seas on average 825 times per day in 2022.
Kevin said: “I empathise with public angst. It is shocking and deeply concerning that members of the public are dutifully paying their water bills in a cost-of-living crisis only to have subpar services that pose serious risks to their health. Given that sewage leaks can be caused by a number of factors, from tree root invasion, seismic activity, flooding, sewage back up or damaged drains, improving infrastructure is vital.”
Positive steps are being taken, with Thames Water publishing plans to prevent water being lost to leaks each day via a £700M investment. More recently, Water UK, which represents nine water and sewage companies across England, has said that £10bn is ready to be invested in infrastructure improvements.
“It’s pleasing to see water companies across the country acknowledge the current issues and put measures in place to tackle this. However, more needs to be done. It’s estimated that around 2.4 billion litres of water are wasted each day due to leaks, which means as much as 87,000 times more than Thames Water’s £700M investment could be needed to remedy this. Plus, while Water UK has talked about money being ‘ready’ for investment, no pledges have been made.”
It is also anticipated that these moves could further increase utility bills for homeowners and occupants.
“For the public to be facing the potential of bills rising again when significant amounts of money are being directed to investor dividends, it is no wonder why there is so much public outcry. While I recognise that water companies have a responsibility to their shareholders, public safety must be the highest priority,” Kevin said.
“It is painfully clear that a greater portion of profits need to be directed to replacing and repairing outdate or damaged infrastructure. When water quality is impaired, it’s the public who suffer. What’s more, leaks are seriously concerning from an environmental point of view.”
It was recently reported that, by 2030, seven regions in the UK could suffer with water stress – a condition defined by demand for water being too great for available supply. Unless corrective measures are taken, by 2040, 12 regions are predicted to run out of water.
“Without out serious action now, we will soon face the terrifying situation where people in the UK will struggle to access potable water. At every level, from homeowners to plumbing engineers, and manufacturers to water companies, we must all use water wisely and save water safely if we are to truly be efficient and sustainable.”