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 Covid-19.

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 Covid-19

If you are concerned about your ability to pay your water bill because of the impact of Covid-19 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

Many businesses will have reduced their commercial activities or temporarily closed in the face of measures to combat the Covid-19 in recent months. Support is available to business customers who may be struggling to pay their water and wastewater bill.

In the first instance, you should contact your retailer. All retailers are required to offer eligible customers a ‘Covid-19 Repayment Scheme’ to enable customers to pay what they are able to afford over an agreed timescale.

Information for wholesalers and retailers in the business retail market

The impacts of Covid-19 are still being felt across the whole of the UK economy. Government and regulators have been acting together to support businesses through this period. In the water sector, Ofwat’s actions have been guided by the central principle of protecting customers’ short and long term interests – in particular by relieving businesses temporarily of the  pressure of having to pay water bills if impacted by Covid-19, while ensuring all customers have access to reliable water and associated retail services now and into the future.

During the nationwide lockdown in Spring 2020, demand for water in the non-household sector fell sharply as a result of the restrictions imposed. We were aware that such reductions would not be immediately apparent to wholesalers and retailers because, for example, settlement volumes may have been on the basis of historic ‘business as usual’ forecasts of water usage. Absent other measures, this would have meant retailers would have been liable for paying wholesalers for higher volume consumption than would have occurred.

Together with the market operator MOSL and other industry stakeholders, we took a number of steps to protect the interests of business customers in the water sector during the Covid-19 nationwide lockdown. This included temporary sector-specific liquidity support, the aim of which was to provide Retailers with time to establish what other support – including Government support – they could gain access to.

Now, as significant parts of the economy have seen restrictions lifted and with many businesses starting to reopen, we expect wholesalers and retailers to continue to work collaboratively to ensure that customers can have confidence in their bills and service levels.

In summary, the steps we have recently taken to help the market to begin to transition out of the temporary Covid-19 arrangements include:

  • Liquidity support:
    • A limited extension of liquidity support until the end of October 2020, but Retailers cannot opt into the scheme if they had not already done so by July 2020.
    • The total amount any one Retailer is allowed to defer is now subject to a cap equal to 40% of primary charges due from March-July 2020, effectively limiting the total amount of liquidity available to the amount that was made available in its April decision. In addition, in any one month it will not be able to increase the amount it is deferring by more than 40% of that month’s primary charges.
    • Deferred wholesale charges need to be repaid in full by end March 2021 and subject to this, Retailers and Wholesalers can agree their own repayment profiles. In the absence of reaching an agreement, we have specified a backstop profile. The backstop profile sets out that Retailers should have repaid 33% of outstanding deferred income at 31 October by end of November, 66% by end of January and 100% by 31 March 2021.
  • Temporary vacancy flag: 
    • Retailers were able to apply the temporary vacancy flag up to – but not beyond – 31 July 2020. And all of these flags must be removed from the Central Market Operating System (CMOS) by end September 2020.
    • In the event of reduced consumption or local lockdowns, we suggest Retailers seek to obtain meter reads to reflect actual consumption in the market, or where a meter read cannot be obtained, the Retailer should engage with the customer to obtain an accurate estimate of consumption.
    • Ofwat, MOSL and CCWater have formed a COVID Transition Review Group that will scrutinise the data, analysis and insight available to assess the progress of the market as it transitions out of temporary vacancy measures.
  • Market Performance charges: Market performance charges were suspended until the end of July 2020. We have allowed the following further extensions:
    • For Operational Performance Standard (OPS) charges – to extend the suspension of charges until the end of September 2020; and
    • For Market Performance Standard (MPS) charges – to extend the suspension of charges until the end of October 2020.
  • Credit support:

Retailers will return to standard credit support requirements when they have removed all temporary vacancy flags from CMOS and provided sufficient assurance that the occupancy status of customers’ premises have been accurately reflected in CMOS.

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