CIWEM’s Alastair Chisholm gives his verdict on government's draft strategic priorities for Ofwat

Management & Regulation

Defra today launched its much-awaited draft of the government’s strategic priorities statement for Ofwat, which is now open for consultation.

Describing the desire for a ‘water sector that delivers for customers, the environment and wider society’ the consultation outlined key priorities for the economic regulator of privatised water and sewerage industry in England and Wales, including the below:

Protecting and enhancing the environment: Ofwat should drive water companies to be more ambitious in their environmental planning and delivery to contribute towards the priorities set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan. Ofwat should drive water companies to improve their day-to-day environmental performance to enhance quality of the water environment.

A resilient water sector: Ofwat should challenge the water sector to plan, invest and operate its water and wastewater services to secure the needs of current and future customers, in a way which delivers value to customers, the environment and wider society over the long-term.

Serving and protecting customers: Ofwat should push water companies to provide a better and fairer water service for all, by improving customer services and complaints handling. Ofwat should drive water companies to meet the needs of vulnerable customers, including those who are ‘transiently’ vulnerable.

But does the statement go far enough? CIWEM head of policy Alastair Chisholm says: "The Strategic Priorities Statement is critical in informing the tone of the next round of water company investment planning. This draft for consultation is a good step in setting the tone for improvement of the current failing state of our freshwater environment. It's pleasing that government clearly states that ‘poor environmental performance is not acceptable and poorly performing companies need to rapidly improve’.

“Ofwat now needs to take this baton and run hard with it to drive the most radical improvement in performance seen since privatisation. But government must also recognise that water resilience needs ambitious action beyond water companies. It must set up and refine instruments which drive equally radical performance improvements in housing performance and blue-green infrastructure in our towns and cities and enable water companies to work closely with local government and farmers to deliver the best possible solutions as widely as possible."

More on Ofwat: providing greater public value: Ofwat publishes seven guiding principles for water companies.

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