Information on the water industry and Coronavirus (Covid 19)

In these challenging times, we remain committed to supporting the water sector and ensuring customers, particularly those who are most vulnerable, receive reliable water and waste services.

We remain in close contact with water companies on the water industry’s response to coronavirus.

Here, you can find advice and answers to questions you may have on your water supply and wastewater management during the outbreak. We will continue to update this page.

If you are worried about paying a bill as a result of the impact of coronavirus

If you are concerned about your ability to pay your water bill because of the impact of coronavirus on your health or job, or you have a general complaint about your water company, you should contact them in the first instance for help or to discuss it. Water UK has published some helpful guidance on this, including how to find out who your water is supplied by.

All water companies provide a range of support to customers, some aimed at customers in vulnerable circumstances, both long-term and short-term, and some for all customers at any time.

We expect companies to:

  • Consider schemes such as payment holidays and payment matching.
  • continue to help customers pay their bills through WaterSure, Social Tariffs and other affordability schemes.
  • continue to keep in close contact with their customers to make sure their customers are aware that such schemes are available in the event that someone is struggling to pay their bills.

If you remain unhappy with your response from your water company, please contact CCW, the statutory consumer body for the water sector in England and Wales, who will be able to offer further assistance and advice.

Make an enquiry or complaint on 0300 034 2222 (for customers in England) / 0300 034 3333 (for customers in Wales)

If you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water

Tap water remains perfectly safe to drink and there is no risk of contracting the virus through it. More information on how drinking water is treated can be found from the Drinking Water Inspectorate.

Information for business customers

The business retail market in England will inevitably be affected, both through businesses closing and as social distancing affects retailer operations. If you have any concerns, please speak to your retailer in the first instance.

Working closely with the Market Operator, MOSL, we have identified a number of measures aimed at minimising the disruption to the market, its customers and the trading parties who are operating within it. We have made urgent changes to the Wholesale Retail Code, the Market Arrangements Code  and the Customer Protection Code of Practice to ensure that business customers are protected.

Businesses who are making late payments and the impact on the retailers

Where business customers can pay their bills on time, it’s really important that they continue to do so. But where COVID 19 affects a business customer’s ability to pay their bill on time then the changes we are making, which will come into effect from 8 April, will provide some relief. For example, they prevent retailers requesting disconnections from wholesalers for the non-payment of charges. They also prevent retailers from charging their business customers interest or late payment charges and from taking enforcement action in the current circumstances. Retailers will be required to provide information to their customers on their websites in a clear and accessible way.

We have also approved a change to the Wholesale Retail Code which provides for an interim deferral of wholesale charges. A reduction in revenue from business customers creates a cash flow issue for retailers because of the way charges are calculated. This code change provides an interim solution to the liquidity issues facing the business retail market whilst we develop a more enduring solution for the period of the pandemic. Where customers can pay their bills on time, they should continue to do so.

Businesses who are not using as much water and the impact on the retailers

We have already approved a change to the Wholesale Retail Code which allows retailers to temporarily apply the vacant flag in the Central Market Operating System (CMOS) so that water charges are not accrued for those premises that have closed due to COVID 19. This aims to ensure that charges more accurately reflect actual levels of (reduced) consumption during the COVID 19 pandemic. MOSL will continue to monitor and track the usage of the vacancy flag across the sector.

Where business customers have closed we would encourage them to contact their retailer to let them know. Or if they remain open and are using significantly less water, then again they should contact their retailer to let them know.

Market performance incentives and financial penalties

The financial penalties that wholesalers and retailers would ordinarily need to pay where they do not meet certain industry level service standards – such as those relating to late meter reads etc – have now been suspended.  MOSL will retain oversight of performance levels and we expect wholesalers and retailers to work to maintain industry level service standards. 

What else we are doing

With these interim measures in place, we are working closely with MOSL and other stakeholders to develop a more enduring solution to the liquidity issues currently facing the non-household sector. Our intention is to implement this solution by the end of April. We are also considering how any excessive levels of bad debt resulting from COVID 19 should be treated and plan to make a decision on this by the end of April.

We are working hard to protect the interests of all business customers, maintain the provision of essential services and support the effective functioning of the business retail market.

For more information on contacting Ofwat, please see the contact us page.