The water industry in England has set out an ambitious new vision for the 2020s with the publication today of its Manifesto for Water.
The manifesto, which has been published by the trade body Water UK, reveals plans for a major investment programme in services, a significant cut in leakage, an overall real-term reduction in bills, and a big increase in help for people who struggle to pay.
It also includes a new programme for helping the environment which will see 8000 km of rivers cleaned and improved.
More than 50 billion is planned to be spent on improving services, which represents a 13% increase on the previous 5-year business period.
At the moment, customers pay around 1 a day for drinking water, reliable sewerage services and protection of the environment.
As part of these new proposals average domestic water bills are planned to fall by more than 4% in real terms across England as a whole.
In recent years, water companies have been increasing the help they offer to customers who genuinely struggle to pay their bills.
The manifesto sets out that, by 2025, companies aim to help 1.4 million customers a year with their bills, which is an increase of nearly 90% compared with today.
Fixing leaks from water mains is one of the industrys biggest priorities, and companies have put an increased focus on it for the 2020-2025 period.
The manifesto unveils proposals to cut leakage by more than 16% over the five years, with some companies intending to go even further. This is the biggest leakage programme for 20 years, and would save the equivalent of 184 Olympic-size swimming pools of water every day by 2025.
Safe and secure water supplies rely on a healthy environment. The manifesto sets out an ambitious programme of environmental activity to build on the improvements made over the last 30 years, which has included seeing wildlife return to rivers that had been biologically dead since the Industrial Revolution.
The new environmental proposals are designed to improve 8000 km of rivers and to reduce by nearly 90% the number of serious pollution incidents, from 52 today to around a half-dozen by the end of 2025.
The manifesto summarises some of the most important overall improvements covered by English water companies business plans for 2020 to 2025.
The plans are the result of an extensive consultation exercise with 5.3 million customers to understand the issues about their water and sewerage services that mean the most to them.
Each plan is unique, reflecting the priorities of the communities served by individual companies. The plans have all been submitted to the industrys economic regulator Ofwat.
Ofwat will review the plans before they can be formally finalised. The individual plans will be published on company websites throughout the course of the today.
The water industrys record over the past 30 years – cutting leakage, keeping bills affordable, improving water quality, and cleaning up rivers – has been good, but the business plans offer to take it to another level, said Water UK chief executive, Michael Roberts.
The ambition in this manifesto shows an industry that is dynamic and passionate about delivering real benefits for customers, the environment and the country as a whole. The industry has set out an ambitious vision for the future of water that puts customers right at the heart of everything that companies do.