Competition could strain water resources

Multi-utility bundling could have a “negative effect” on water resources in the long-term

Water competition “may not be the best thing for the sustainability of water”, especially in the South East, according to Affinity for Business managing director Helen Gillett.

“Competition, in all its glory, isn’t necessarily the best answer for the long-term sustainability of the region,” she added. “That’s something I know we [Affinity for Business] take seriously, I’m not so sure other retailers necessarily do, particularly if they don’t have a water background.”

Gillett told Utility Week in an interview that water is already “incredibly cheap”, and there are already customers who don’t think they should have to pay for it at all “because it comes from the sky”.

She warned that multi-utility bundling, brought about by increased retail competition, could have a negative effect on water resources. “It could be great commercially for customers, but if it makes water the cheapest thing on the list and almost like it’s free, that’s not good in the South East of the UK.”

Following the driest winter experienced in the UK in 20 years, rumours that hosepipe bans may be enforced over this summer have arisen in the national media.

However, water companies in the south of England – which is the area worst-affected by drought – have insisted that there are “no water supply issues”.

Affinity Water’s asset strategy manager, Mike Pocock, recently told Utility Week that “a continuing pattern of dry weather in the autumn would be a bigger concern”.

Gillett said that although the UK may have been granted a temporary “reprieve” with the wet weather it has had recently, this “doesn’t do anything for the long term”. “We need a wet winter,” she said. “[If we get] two dry winters, this time next year will be really worrying.”

Read the full interview with Helen Gillett here, and in the 7 July issue of Utility Week