Water

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New chief executives have been unveiled at United Utilities and Electricity North West, following the retirement of Steve Mogford and Peter Emery respectively.
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Ofwat has named David Black as its permanent chief executive after a year in the position in an interim capacity. Black oversaw the PR19 price review, dubbed the toughest the sector has seen, and has been instrumental in tightening financial resilience of water companies.
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Industry experts have called for the prioritisation of work to better understand and remove surface water without it entering overburdened sewers as a key challenge of climate change resilience. The chief executive of Thames and Northumbrian Water agree that the sector needs to work harder, and collaborate further on managing surface water.
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Consumer research shows water companies are increasingly being seen as the primary culprits when it comes to river pollution, yet public awareness of the work they are doing to mitigate these impacts is actually dropping. Ruth Williams asks why the water sector has struggled to make its voice heard.
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The inaugural UK Utilities Risk Report, from Utility Week and Marsh, highlights the key issues keeping sector leaders awake at night. From cybersecurity to policy and regulatory blockers, extreme weather and price volatility, this report presents a snapshot of the key concerns for utilities.
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Ofwat and CCW have said wastewater companies must review their responses to sewer flooding incidents after a report commissioned by the bodies found customers felt let down by slow action, poor communication and inadequate compensation. CCW chief executive Emma Clancy said the research had exposed “a cross-sector failure which is leaving people who experience sewer flooding in vulnerable circumstances.”
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United Utilities has seen one in two customers sign up to the open banking scheme it launched last year, its new chief executive has told Utility Week. She described how taking the initiative in-house had overcome underwhelming take-up initially.
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Ofwat has confirmed it will continue to provide ring-fenced funding for further development of four strategic regional water resource projects in England following their assessment by the Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID). The regulator has issued its final decisions for the accelerated gate two of RAPID’s four gate development process for large-scale strategic schemes to provide resilient water supplies to drier parts of the country.
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Kraken Technologies, the provider of Octopus Energy’s proprietary end-to-end energy services platform, has announced it is expanding into other utility sectors such as water and broadband. As part of the expansion, the company has formed a new business, Kraken Utilities, which is hiring for another 50 positions to add to its existing team of 250 people.
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The water sector has called for reforms to regulation to enable it to meet the challenges of supplying water in the face of climate change, population growth and aging infrastructure. Water UK chief executive Christine McGourty said: “Without urgent action there is a risk future generations will simply not have enough of this precious resource to go around.”
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The government has declared its support for further investment in sewerage systems in England and Wales in its response to the Environmental Audit Committee’s damning report on water quality in rivers. However, the committee's recommendations to address pollution from agriculture and homebuilding, which both play a significant role in preventing rivers from achieving good ecological status, were not accepted.
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In our weekly roundup of national news coverage from the weekend is news that the men behind behind energy suppliers that failed have launched a new energy company called Putney Energy; the impacts of the energy crisis continue to bite; government action over river water quality is criticised; and an interview with Octopus boss Greg Jackson asks if heat pumps are worth it;
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As the cost of living crisis bites householders across the UK, water billpayers in England and Wales have reported increased anxiety about affording their bills, with more than 61% stating they are concerned about their finances worsening this year. Research by Ofwat showed a correlation between those struggling to pay and suffering with poor wellbeing including depression.
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Incoming Ofwat chair Iain Coucher has outlined his four priorities for his tenure that include addressing river water quality in rivers and boosting water companies' financial resilience by ensuring boards and executives take responsibility. He will succeed Jonson Cox who is set to step down at the end of June after 10 years as chair of the regulator.
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Wessex Water has set out plans to reduce the risk of harm from combined sewer overflows across its region with £150 million investment to 2025 to increase capacity at treatment plants, add nature-based solutions and separate foul from surface water.
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The number of business customers switching their water retailer was higher in 2021/21 than the year before but has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, data collated by MOSL has shown. The market operator said there was also a dip in retailer performance as some continued to face problems with the availability of meter readers.
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