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Will Ofwat’s New Five Year Plan Boost ‘Trust In Water’?

On 15th April Ofwat published its new five year plan, devised to build upon progress made through their ‘Trust in Water’ strategy during 2015-16, and with the aim of maintaining momentum in 2016-17 and beyond.

Building consumer confidence is the driving force behind the Trust in Water strategy, and Ofwat explain that the plan for the next 5 years has been, “shaped by the engagement we have had with the sector and others over the last year that has informed our thinking for future markets and price setting by 2020. It has also been shaped by our conversations with all those with an interest in the sector we regulate about the performance of the sector today and in the future.”

But what does the plan hope to achieve, and how might it bolster the water industry during this time of key milestones, including non-domestic market deregulation?

Customer protection and industry resilience

For non-domestic customers, 2017 will be a time of change: as deregulation of the water market, facilitated by Ofwat, opens new doors of opportunity for cost savings and improved customer service offerings. Water suppliers are already working hard behind the scenes to ready themselves for the new open market and must declare their plans in just over six months’ time. Deregulation will also mean a change in Ofwat’s role, and their five year plan includes programmes that will help companies to develop future markets; introducing frameworks that will allow Ofwat to step back and enable customers to ‘shop around’, but also to step back up and support end-users when needed. One of their key aims is to co-ordinate action from industry stakeholders, and encourage water companies to be more agile and responsive to customer needs. Ofwat also aim to put measures in place that will improve resilience across the sector and enable suppliers to innovate, so that they might meet the future challenges facing the UK water infrastructure over the coming years.

Businesses must support key aims

The intentions behind Ofwat’s plans look like good news for business customers, and include a call to water companies to take more responsibility for delivering the services that their customers want, by:

  • being more focused on customers and responsive to their needs;
  • becoming more open and transparent;
  • having strong relationships with everyone they work with – from communities to suppliers;
  • challenging themselves to work differently to provide better services for less;
  • make sure that financial performance is closely linked to delivering what customers want;
  • making better use of scarce resources, protecting our natural environment and making sure services are resilient.

However, the success of the plan will require stakeholders, water companies, and customers to ‘buy in’ to the shared vision. For businesses, the first step will be to prepare for deregulation prior to its arrival next year.

What should your business be doing?

Whilst the water companies are getting their data in order and Ofwat are fine tuning their vision of a competitive marketplace, businesses of all sizes should be scrutinising their water usage. Cleansing current supply accounts and taking a fresh look at efficiency measures will put businesses in the best possible position to go to tender in April 2017, and secure the water contract that best serves their specific needs. The competitive water market will only provide all of the potential benefits if customers maximise on their ability to choose. Enquire about a free water audit for your business.

Read Ofwat’s five year business plan 2016/17 to 2020/2021