PR19 a ‘vital’ moment for resilience

History is “not a good guide” for what may be faced in the future, warns Anglian Water

The next water price review – PR19 – will be critical to the safeguarding of water resources for future generations, according to Anglian Water’s director of regulation Alex Plant.

Plant told Utility Week that a “really critical issue” for the company to consider as it heads into PR19 is the range of actions that will be needed on both the demand- and supply-side, to ensure a resilient future.

He warned that the water sector is faced with increasing threats from climate change, which is likely to change patterns of demand.

“History is not a good guide of what we may have to face in the future,” Plant said, adding that “we should be able to look at the outcome of this next price review and say ‘yes that helped to put the measures in place that safeguarded future water resource, and indeed flooding risk, for the next generation’”.

However, he said keeping within the bounds of affordability while answering challenges to resilience will be difficult. “It’s that resilience and affordability trade-off that we need to get absolutely right. Certainly nobody would thank us if we didn’t take the steps in this next price review that ensured that we have a resilient future in water and water recycling services.”

Ofwat’s PR19 proposals are centred on four themes – customer service, long-term resilience, affordability, and innovation.

This week, Anglian Water held a festival to ask the public for ideas regarding its £425 million investment plan for 2017. The company invited customers to its H2OMG event in Norwich to engage with them as part of its Big Conversation initiative. Anglian Water serves one of the driest areas of the UK and the expanding population means that plans need to be put in place or “there simply won’t be enough water to go around”. The annual investment in its infrastructure is part of its plan for PR19.

The winter of 2016/17 was the driest in 20 years for some parts of the UK, which prompted speculation in the national media that hosepipe bans may be enforced over the summer. Water companies, however, played down these fears.

Research published last year by the water industry warned that England and Wales face longer, more frequent and more acute droughts than previously thought. The research – commissioned by Water UK – said the economy could lose as much as £1.3 billion per day during a severe drought in England or Wales, unless action is taken to make the water supply more resilient.