Severn Trent Water to be fined £35.8 million

April 30, 2008 at 2:04 am

Water regulator Ofwat has announced plans to fine Severn Trent Water £35.8 million, 3% of its turnover, for deliberately giving them false information and providing a poor service to customers.

Ofwat has specified that Severn Trent Water’s shareholders must bear the entire cost of the proposed penalty and that it cannot be passed on to customers. While the fine is one of the heaviest ever proposed, Ofwat argues that customers are completely dependent on the regulator for protection in a monopoly industry where they have no choice of supplier.

Tony Wray, chief executive of Severn Trent Plc, responded by saying that he and his new management team had alerted Ofwat and taken steps to improve working practices as soon as they uncovered misreporting and poor service. Those directly responsible for customer relations mistakes are no longer with the company, which has issued an apology to customers for its failings. Having received notice from Ofwat, Severn Trent Plc has promised to consider carefully the proposed fine and “respond appropriately”. Any objections must be submitted to Ofwat before May 6th.

Mick Rix, National Officer of the campaigning trade union GMB, criticised Ofwat for using the “pointless recourse” of financial penalties. He said that fines were irrelevant to utility companies operating in a monopoly culture and that it would be customers and workers who would end up footing the bill.

The fine is the latest in a string of penalties imposed by Ofwat on water companies for failures in reporting and customer service. Thames Water was fined £12 million in September last year and Southern Water was ordered to pay over £20 million in February this year.

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Europe ready for water wars?

April 22, 2008 at 2:03 pm

We’ve heard of war being fought over things like oil, diamonds and gold but not something such as water. It seems that Europe is poised on the brink of what is being coined a Water War and it’s another environmental concern for us all.

Water supplies in Barcelona are at an all-time low. This has meant the Catalans have had to look to their neighbours in France for help. They have looked at other means, such as diverting nearby rivers and desalinating the water, but in their worst drought in decades it looks as though they will have to resort to importing supplies.

Marseille would be the source of what is only a small amount of water at the moment but the French have yet to decide on a price and could end up charging them as much as they liked as crops and inhabitants run dry.

War over water is not something history has seen all that often. Climate change is a real problem for us though. It’s making headlines almost everyday and is always in the public domain. It might be something as essential as water supplies that cause fall-outs between neighbouring countries. This has already been seen with Israel and Palestine, as the latter depends on the former, who own over 90% of the region’s water supplies.

The same tension is occurring between Syria, Iraq and Turkey and in that case there are special dams being erected to contain the water and forbid their neighbours access to it. It’s doubtful that Spain and France would ever come to actual blows over water but it’s still an issue we should all be aware of and one that might mean we have to call on the help of others.

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We have to embrace water efficiency

April 15, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Will people in the UK only care about how much water they waste when they see that the country really is running short? Will it take us running out to sit up suddenly and feel thirsty? A meeting with the Economic and Social Research Council and UK Water Industry Research has revealed that this is largely the case with us here in Britain. This is worrying a number of environmentalists and the water companies too. Britain was compared to the rest of Europe in their water consumption and it has revealed that we are not up to speed in terms of our attitude.

It never rains but it pours – and you’ve only to look at some of the houses in places such as Hull and Gloucester last year to see this. It’s because of the amount of rain in the UK lately though, that its residents are somewhat sceptical about the idea of us being short of water. The problem is though, that there aren’t sufficient storage and drainage facilities and so it all goes straight back into the sea, no sooner have people put their umbrellas away.

Many people have recently made the big change to meters, which means they, like those in the rest of Europe, are more careful with how much they use and when they leave taps running etc. But this is still quite uncommon in the UK and for that reason the shortage is predicted to get more and more serious over the next ten years. It might take more than just a hose-pipe ban in the summer to change the attitudes of people in the UK.

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New carbon-counter for the water industry

April 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

The water industry in the UK has a new procedure that will measure and count the amount of embodied carbon produced. This will mean that when certain water companies build new treatment plants, for example, they will be able to monitor the carbon footprint of such a task. The UK Water Industry’s Research (UKWIR) has partnered with engineering firm MWH to help conduct the research.

There is currently a price-watch system in operation in the water industry, led by the regulator Ofwat, which has a five-year review for the water and sewage companies. Consideration of carbon will now be implemented and form part of a process called the PR09 system.

Ofwat have not been strangers to regulations and strict guidelines when it comes to climate change. Over the last few years they have called on all UK water companies to produce 25-year plans detailing how they will manage and conduct themselves in an environmentally friendly line of business.

Regulating and checking-up on the UK’s water companies is a fact of life in the industry, as often they can find themselves bending the rules somewhat. Ofwat are always hot on their tails though and never was this better displayed than when Thames Water faced a fine of up to £12 million for inadequate reporting of customer services. The project manager of UKWIR Gordon Wheale names this as just one of a series of projects the water industry are implementing in the name of climate change.

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