Role of the Water Industry
Several private water companies supply England and Wales with water supplies. Some provide water only, while others supply both water and sewage services. The situation is different in Northern Ireland and Scotland, where state owned companies act as the major providers of water and sewage services. Northern Ireland Water is the sole water and sewage provider in Northern Ireland while Scottish Water carries out similar functions in Scotland.
How the Water Industry is regulated
Charges and Services
The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) regulates the water industry in England and Wales. The Water Industry Commission for Scotland carries out similar functions in Scotland. Northern Ireland does not have a separate regulator for water services. All utility services in Northern Ireland, including water and sewerage services are regulated by the Utility Regulator- electricity, gas and water. They regulate how much water companies can charge. They would also investigate any customer complaints that are not resolved by the water and sewerage providers.
Apart from these statutory bodies, an independent body, the Consumer Council for Water protects and promotes the interests of water consumers in England and Wales. Northern Ireland and Scotland have equivalent independent watchdogs.
Services such as sewage disposal may affect the quality of the environment. In England and Wales, the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales regulate water companies on environmental issues and prescribe standards that the companies must follow in their operations. They also advise and monitor the industry on its environmental performance. The Water Act 2003 requires them to work with Ofwat to harmonise the treatment of matters of common interest and foster a greater exchange of information between the regulators.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are the environmental regulators for Scottish Water and Northern Ireland Water respectively. The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) (England and Wales), DWI (Northern Ireland) and Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland also play a role in the regulation of the water industry. They (along with local authorities) are responsible for ensuring that drinking water supplies meet the standards set by UK regulations and the EU drinking water directive.