When water privatisation was implemented, our small island was divided into over 20 regional water providers, each a separate monopoly business entity focussing on maximising profits from customers' bills for their shareholders.
Water is, however, a national resource for the benefit of all users.
For example, because Thames Water’s owners would make more profit from building a massive Abingdon reservoir, paid for by their customers, than by transferring Severn water from a separate water company, there was no incentive for Thames Water to opt for this better, cheaper, more sustainable alternative unless otherwise directed by DEFRA.
The South East of England, including London, is officially described as being “water stressed”. But, examined nationally (and not from the standpoint of a regional monopoly supplier such as Thames Water), the South East need not be short of water.
The map of Britain’s annual rainfall (right) clearly shows why it would make sense for the wetter West to supplement supplies to the dryer South East. If you would like a printable version of this map, download a PDF here.
Water customers rightly expect DEFRA itself and its two key agencies, OFWAT (the water regulator) and the Environment Agency,supported by the Consumers Council for Water, to use their powers to ensure the optimum national water resource solutions are reached to meet the growth in demand, mainly from London. Consequently, GARD applauds the recent funding adjustments made by OFWAT aimed at promoting major water transfers between water companies. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, it is essential that the appropriate regulators ensure these revised measures are implemented in practice, and specifically by Thames Water.