PN 27/21: Ofwat backs innovation to find new and sustainable ways to keep the taps running

Ofwat has today given backing for 15 projects to progress further, as it encourages the water sector to find long-term solutions to make sure the taps can keep running in England and Wales.

Changes to weather patterns because of climate change mean that rainfall distribution is becoming less predictable and consistent across the country. The shift to hotter drier summers and warmer wetter winters will affect overall water availability. To help confront this, Ofwat provided almost £500m of funding for water companies to investigate and develop strategic solutions to this challenge.

This programme is being overseen by the Regulators Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID), made up of Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate, with support from CCW, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales.

Some of the ideas being explored include making greater use of canals and creating new reservoirs, so water is captured and moved to where it is needed.

Each of the nine water companies involved have effectively gathered evidence and made progress in exploring the possible solutions. The 15 proposals will now proceed to the next stage of development and scrutiny. Progress will next be assessed at gate two in October 2022 to determine whether they should continue to receive additional support. The gated process is intended to support companies in progressing solutions to be ‘construction ready’ for the 2025-2030 period.

The draft decisions to progress these 15 proposed solutions are now open for representations and there will be further opportunities for stakeholders to comment as the plans progress.

Paul Hickey, RAPID Managing Director said:

“Making sure the water sector is prepared and planning for our changing climate is essential. Ofwat’s approach of allowing nearly £500m of funding to find innovative and effective solutions, and doing so with real collaboration across companies and regulators, is a landmark shift and could unlock meaningful innovation and secure services for customers of the future and protect the natural environment.

“We have to find new and sustainable ways to keep the taps running. We will continue to collaborate to find the right solutions so the water sector delivers in the face of the climate emergency.

“The collaboration across all parties has worked well during this assessment process and we’re happy that the partnership is making good progress.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. Ofwat’s draft decisions on the gate one solutions.
  2. Letters to companies – Affinity Water, Anglian Water, Cambridge Water (South Staffs Water), Severn Trent Water, Southern Water, South West Water, Thames Water, United Utilities, Wessex Water.
  3. Companies and other interested parties have until 5pm on 8 October 2021 to make their representations following these draft decisions.
  4. Ofwat will publish its final decisions on 16 November 2021.
  5. Infographics of the 15 solutions.
  6. The Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID) was set up in 2019. It is a partnership made up of the water regulators – Ofwat, the Environment Agency (EA), the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI).
  7. RAPID was formed to help facilitate the development and funding of these new large scale strategic water supply solutions. Each of the strategic solutions will pass through a gated process where decisions are made on delivery penalties and solution progression.