The challenges posed by climate change and population growth mean we need bold, creative and innovative action to ensure we have reliable access to resilient, affordable water and wastewater services in the future.
We are changing the way we regulate parts of the sector, to bring benefits to customers, the environment and society. Wastewater sludge transport, treatment, recycling and disposal is one such area. We are calling these activities bioresources services. We want to change the thought process from viewing this as an inconvenient waste produced by treating wastewater, to seeing it as an opportunity. The trading of bioresources could be a real breakthrough – economically and environmentally. By kick-starting this market, we could develop even more low-carbon energy generation and reduce water bills.
We are asking the water companies to think about their own bioresources activities as separate from their other wastewater duties of sewage collection and sewage treatment. The way we regulate is going to draw strict boundaries around bioresources activities, such that the water companies won’t be able to cross-subsidise their bioresources activities using money from their other activities. This will drive more commercial arrangements for how their different activities interact with each other.
Through our price setting process, the water companies will receive revenue from customers to safely treat the bioresources they produce but there will be no obligation for the companies to use their own facilities or people to transport, treat, recycle or dispose of these bioresources. Companies will be incentivised to look for the most efficient option for dealing with bioresources.
We are also going to ask companies to publish information about their own bioresources treatment facilities which they may want to make available for others to use under commercial arrangements.
We set up a sludge working group to discuss how we could separate out bioresources from the other water company activities, and also looking at the market information companies should publish. The details of these working group meetings are available here on our website.
Our water 2020 May 2016 document explains the rationale for why we are promoting markets in bioresources.