PR19 Plan

We know it’s important to our customers that their bill is affordable and good value for money, so this is what our proposed plan has been built around. However, we have some decisions to make about how quickly we achieve our long-term ambitions, which could have an impact on customer bills. Because of this, we would like customers to make some choices on what’s most important to them.

Our focus is around 8 topics: Sewage flooding, Water quality – lead pipes, Leaks, River pollution, No water, Drought, Wet weather resilience, Helping those who are struggling to pay their bill.

Read about them below or download the booklet.

Our sewers collect sewage (what goes down your toilets, drains and sinks), as well as rainwater from homes and businesses.

However, sometimes things go wrong which can cause homes to be flooded with sewage. Last year, 0.02% of homes in our region were flooded. Although this is a small percentage, we think any home being flooded is unacceptable.

Sewers flood because of blockages caused by the wrong things being flushed down the loo, as well as heavy rainfall.

Our proposed plan

To help us reach our targets, we’re scaling up our ‘Bin it - don’t block it’ campaign to let customers know about the problems caused by putting the wrong things down the loo.

As part of the fight against blockages, we’ll be working with restaurants and food establishments to collect their fat and grease, helping to discourage them from putting it down their drains and sinks.

We’ll be installing equipment to help us predict build-ups in blockages, which means we can clean them before they block.

We would like to reduce the number of sewage flooding incidents by 5% a year, but, we could reduce them to 10% – this would add £1.40 to the average annual household bill.

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Lead is a common metal and, in the past, was used to make pipes. It’s not used in our network of larger pipes today but may have been used before 1970, to connect individual properties to our network.

We’ve estimated that around half of the pipes that connect individual properties to our network are made from lead. That’s around 1.24 million pipes.

Our proposed plan

Our long-term objective is to make sure our customers aren’t exposed to lead.

For us, it’s a priority to target primary schools. This is because research has shown that children under seven are more likely to be affected by exposure to lead, harming their development.

We’ll be replacing 41,500 lead communication pipes in areas with the most lead piping and will continue to replace any lead pipes we find as part of our mains renewal programme.

We’re also going to conduct a trial to replace all domestic lead piping from the road to the kitchen tap in 5,000 homes.

It’s important we continue to provide top quality water, while looking for ways we can improve our treatment processes.

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Water leaks happen when small cracks appear in our pipes, or joints between pipes open up. This can happen for lots of different reasons – from ground movements, to the temperature of the water being too low.

Reducing leaks is our highest priority, because the more water we lose through leaks, the more water we have to take from the environment.

Our proposed plan

Our proposed plan is to reduce leakage by a minimum of 15% by 2025. This means we’ll reduce the amount of water lost from 646 to 549 million litres every day or from 25% to 22% of the amount of water that we put into supply. We’ll do this through a major programme to repair and replace our water pipes. In the future, we plan to reduce leakage further, and are working hard to understand how much more we can achieve, by when and at what cost. We’ll include this in our revised plan.

We’ll also continue to improve our data and technology, so we can target leaks more effectively, using both traditional and innovative techniques, while ensuring our teams are equipped to find and repair leaks.

We know that we’ve got a long way to go to reach our targets and the plan to halve our leakage in the long term is ambitious. We’ll be able to update you on this in September once we have finalised our plan.

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We take our responsibility for turning wastewater into clean water and returning it safely back to the environment very seriously. This year, 99.4% of all the wastewater we treated was returned safely to the environment. This is one of our very best results and places us highly amongst other water companies.

We have made considerable improvements since 2013, when we fell short of our targets, resulting in court action and a £20 million fine, but we can still do more. In the next few years, we want to be rated as a top performer by the Environment Agency and have an ambition to eliminate all pollution in the future.

Our proposed plan

We’ll undergo a major change in how we run our business to further expand the use of technology to tell us when things are about to go wrong. This builds on our pilot work in central London which predicts the build-up of blockages and the risk of potential sewage escapes.

Sometimes customers’ waste pipes are wrongly connected to surface water drains, leading to pollution. By working closely in partnership with local authorities and other groups, we’re finding more of these kinds of problem. We plan to treble the amount of misconnection tracing we do, increasing the number of rivers and streams that benefit through this work from 40 to 120 a year.

From 2020, we propose to reduce the number of pollution incidents from 35 per 10,000 km of sewer pipes to 25, but our aim is to achieve zero pollution.

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Sometimes, either due to an emergency or work we’re doing, we may need to turn off our customers’ water for a short while.

When this happens, we always try our hardest to keep them informed of our progress and when their water supply can be restored. We post updates on our website and social media and our Customer Service Agents are kept up to date with what’s happening.

Our proposed plan

We’ll install additional monitoring points on our network to inform us of any problems at the earliest opportunity.

From 2020 to 2025, we’ll increase the amount of pipes we’ve replaced in previous years.

We’ll also improve the reliability of our water treatment and storage so we can re-route water more easily in an emergency.

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Our area is classed as ‘seriously water stressed’ by the Environment Agency. This means we have to do whatever we can to ensure water is used carefully, in order to protect the environment and ensure there’s enough to go around for all our customers, whatever the weather.

There’s a lot of pressure on the amount of water we have available, with increasing population and changing weather patterns, making it more important for us to be water smart.

In severe droughts, we have to put water rationing in place. This would mean that water for everyday activities would be rationed and water might be turned off for periods during the day. These restrictions could last for several weeks. The last time this happened in our region was in 1976.

Our proposed plan

Our Water Resources Management Plan looks ahead 80 years so we can ensure that there’s enough water for the future.

In the plan, we highlight the options we’ve considered to make sure we can continue to provide our current service and establish how we can protect our customers from events such as severe droughts.

Our proposed plan meets guidelines which state we need to protect all of our customers from a one in 200 year drought, which is defined as a severe drought – but we do have some choice in how quickly we achieve this.

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We know that the number of people living in our region is going to increase and, at the moment, some of our sewers, pumping stations and treatments works are running near to capacity during heavy rainfall.

We also know that climate change brings unexpected weather patterns and we often experience more extreme storms or longer periods of dry weather, either causing flooding or drought.

Around 250,000 properties in our region are at risk of sewer flooding in a very severe storm (one in 50 year event), and it’s really important to us that we reduce this number.

We need to become more resilient to big storms and long periods of wet weather as well as increasing the size of our sewers.

Our proposed plan

We’re proposing to reduce the number of properties at risk of flooding from a very severe storm from 250,000 to 215,000. The majority of this improvement will be achieved by putting in place sustainable drainage solutions.

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We know that for some households, their income doesn’t stretch far enough and we want to make sure we’re here to support those who are struggling to pay their water bill. As well as this, it’s been estimated that the cost of unpaid bills adds around £13 to the average yearly household bill.

So, for everyone, it’s really important we minimise debt by supporting those that can’t pay, while making sure we collect charges from those who can.

Our proposed plan

We must provide access to financial support for every customer who’s finding it hard to pay. Our plan is to offer a discounted tariff up to 300,000 low-income customers by 2025.

Tell us what you think
Tell us what you think