Greater collaboration needed within industry, says Affinity Water’s MD for wholesale operation

Affinity Water’s managing director for wholesale operations, Drew Ritchie, has revealed he hopes to set up a task force with the express idea of “creating the future, together”.

During his Embracing transformation in the water sector talk at Utility Week’s Congress 2017 event last month, Ritchie shared his thoughts on creating a water delivery group, comprising of chief operating officers and managing directors from UK water companies.

“The industry faces many challenges; however, I am confident that the future will be bright and that this could be helped by greater levels of collaboration – working more closely together,” he told Utility Week.

“We need to carefully navigate our way through regulatory and policy changes, economic and financial change, Brexit, climate change, investment and maintenance of ageing assets, technological development and of course beating our customers’ expectations of us.”

He added: “For me, it is all about the industry as a whole, rather than as individual water companies. I think we need to work together more collaboratively than ever before to address the future challenges we each face.

“All water companies have challenging business plans to deliver this AMP and this will not change as we each approach AMP7 and AMP8.”

Ritchie told Utility Week that regulator Ofwat is “expecting more” from companies, including significant improvements in efficiency, effectiveness, partnerships and customer satisfaction.

“If one of us doesn’t meet the required levels of performance, it will be the industry that has fallen behind. We must all work together to improve the cumulative performance of our industry, learning from each other in the process,” he explained.

With an ageing workforce, Ritchie believes the water industry could be facing a potential skills shortage, describing the challenge to attract, recruit and retain talent as a “significant” one.

He said: “To facilitate some solutions to these issues I believe the establishment of a water delivery group has the potential to help the whole industry more forward.

“Sharing best practice, lessons learned, sharing ideas and concepts, helping one another to help ourselves has to be the way to go. Our regulator wants us to move the industry forward, but we can only do this, by working closer together.”

He added: “Like me, my operations counterparts are accountable and responsible for much of the AMP spend, but we don’t have a forum in which to meet and discuss the challenges we each face. I am hoping that this idea will garner support and with it an agreed shared goal, to help us to help ourselves and our customers across the UK and not just within the specific geographical areas that we each supply today. 

“I have no doubt that we are better, together. The shared experiences can only help us all, especially with the challenges ahead in AMP7.”

He told Utility Week: “Going forward, we are considering the various options for facilitating this group, including possible involvement from Water UK.”

A spokesperson for Water UK, added: “Affinity Water has mentioned this idea to us, and we’re looking forward to hearing more about it.”

To find out more contact Drew Ritchie at