Satisfaction with water companies declines

Two in five consumers believe that water suppliers are more interested in profits than providing a good service, research from Ofwat and CCW has revealed.

The regulator and water watchdog jointly commissioned research to understand and monitor people’s views of the water sector across a broad range of measures.

A survey of c.2,400 people revealed a drop in both satisfaction with water and wastewater services and trust in companies to deliver on a range of activities.

Two in five (40%) believed their water provider was more interested in profits than providing a good service, compared to 33% when similar research was carried out in 2021.

Trust in water companies’ environmental performance declined, with fewer than a quarter (23%) agreeing that they trust water suppliers to do what is right for the environment, compared to 31% in 2021.

Meanwhile, just 21% agreed that providers act in the interests of the environment, a fall from 27% over the two years.

Three in ten respondents (31%) agreed companies provide a good service (vs. 39% in 2021), while 22% agreed that services offer value for money. This was down from 29%.

Just 58% reported being satisfied with the quality of water services received (vs. 65% in 2021), while fewer than half (49%) reported being satisfied with wastewater and drainage services received. In 2021, this was 56%.

Ofwat said the research reflected the fact that water company performance on the environment is “simply not good enough”.

”This study underscores a concerning trend of declining satisfaction and eroding trust among customers of water companies, especially when it comes to their environmental performance. This breakdown in public confidence is of the companies’ own making, reflecting their own short falls in performance,” said Lynn Parker, senior director for casework, enforcement, and customers at Ofwat.

“However, we are now beginning to see the water industry respond in a meaningful way to the challenges we and the government have set. The water companies have produced plans that will provide an additional £100 billion of expenditure to reduce pollution, improve biodiversity, and deliver better customer service. We are currently examining these plans to make sure they maximise the environmental benefits and deliver value for money for customers.”

English and Welsh water and sewerage companies have proposed doubling their spending on environmental enhancements over the five years to 2030. This includes more than £9 billion on reducing discharges from combined sewer overflows.

Jenny Suggate, director of policy, research & campaigns at CCW, added: “Customers’ diminishing trust in water companies is not going to be reversed until people begin to see and feel a marked improvement in both the service they receive and the state of the environment.

“There is a growing perception that the water industry cares more about profit than the service it provides. One way more companies could help change that view is by using some of their own money to bolster support for those struggling with their water bills.

“The rise in people contacting their water company with concerns over their bill underlines why the industry must not turn its back on the commitment it made five years ago to end water poverty by 2030.”

A Water UK spokesperson said: “Water companies want to invest nearly £100 billion to ensure the security of our water supply in the future and significantly reduce the amount of sewage entering rivers and seas.

“Ultimately it is investment that will drive improvements and we need the regulator Ofwat to give us the green light so we can get on with it.”