Why we need water and how we can keep it

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 August 2017 | UPDATED: 09:00 15 August 2017

Jean Spencer, Anglian Water�s director of regulation. Picture: Supplied

Jean Spencer, Anglian Water�s director of regulation. Picture: Supplied


Water is vital to life and, even though we all like to grumble about the weather, it is a chilling fact that vast areas of the UK have recently had less rainfall than the Sahara Desert. All this week in Norwich, Anglian Water, the region’s main supplier, is showcasing its work and how it plans to ensure our supplies in the years to come.

Peter Simpson, Anglian Water chief executivePeter Simpson, Anglian Water chief executive

The Italians have dubbed it Lucifer, the dangerous heat wave sweeping across central Europe in August, leaving water bans in its wake.

But, as temperatures across mainland Europe rocketed towards 50C at the beginning of the month, we Brits were complaining about a wet July and a cold start to August.

One organisation that will always welcome a temperate summer is Anglian Water, responsible for water provision to more than six million residents in eastern England, one of the driest areas in the country.

In the latest annual report, chief executive Peter Simpson says: “Drought risk, climate change and finite water resources present significant risk to the business.


“Anglian Water covers one of the fastest-growing regions in the country and therefore planning for the future and resilient supplies is a constant theme on our agenda.

“Managing this risk is at the heart of our operations and future strategy. It’s why we have Love Every Drop as our mantra… recognising that the issue of water resources is a concern for the wider industry, we have been closely involved in the development of a high-level strategy and framework for the long-term planning of water resources for public water supply in England and Wales.”

Published last year by Water UK, representing the major water service providers, the strategy report warns: “Mains water cannot be guaranteed, and this is a problem that will become more severe.”

In a report aimed at formulating policy across half a century from 2015-2065, it adds: “Water can remain affordable for customers and rightly so, given that it is essential to life. It is important for government to establish what is acceptable in terms of levels of resilience to drought, thereby informing the policy, planning, regulatory and implementation priorities for the water sector.”

Back with Anglian Water, the company notes: “Climate change is a major challenge to our business that can impact our assets and service to our customers.

“We operate in the driest region of the UK, classed as ‘water stressed’ by the Environment Agency, and our low-lying region makes us particularly vulnerable to localised flooding during severe storms or tidal surges.

“We see the inherent risk continuing to increase with the effects of climate change, customer demand and environmental challenges.”

Jean Spencer, chair of the national Long Term Water Resources Project and Anglian Water’s director of strategic growth and resilience, adds: “The top priority for customers is to have a safe, reliable supply of water at a price they can afford.

“To deliver this reliability, it is critically important that the water industry plans for the long term because decisions and investments made today will determine the service that can be provided in the future.”

Anglian Water’s Carolyn Cooksey added: “We are at The Forum in Norwich this week to have conversations with customers about how they want their bill money to be spent. We’re looking to understand their priorities to determine what steps we must take to address the future.

“Simultaneously we need to deliver great service for customers and keep it affordable for everybody. That’s a big challenge and that’s why we’re approaching this consultation in a very different, fun way, and we’d encourage people to come down and have their say.”

Meanwhile, managing resources effectively and investing in schemes that provide resilience have been cornerstones of Anglian Water’s customer-focused business plans, including:

• The award-winning Love Every Drop campaign in 2010.

• Achieving the lowest leakage levels in the country – around half the national average per kilometre of pipe.

• Establishing Water Resource East, which considers policy for the next 100 years.

Ms Spencer adds: “We are a dry nation for our population size, and our growing cities, and thriving industry and economy all need water to survive and grow.”

To this end, the company is investing £425m across East Anglia this financial year, funded by average household bills of £1.15 a day, on top of the £500,000 daily already accounted for to run the business and operate the water and sewer networks. The total spend is part of a commitment to invest £5bn across the region in 2015-2020.

Did you know?

Anglian Water, which draws supplies from 209 boreholes, nine reservoirs and nine rivers:

• Supplies more than 1 billion litres of water every day to two and a half million households and more than 124,000 businesses.

• Serves the fastest growing parts of the UK with a predicted 34pc growth in the number of households by 2031.

• Says the amount of water used today is slightly less than we used in 1989, despite 27pc more properties.

• Claims a meter saves on average £100 a year and helps customers use 5-15pc less water than non-metered houses.

• Operates and maintains 38,185km (23,727 miles) of water mains, 328 water towers and storage points on the network and 143 water treatment works.

• Carries out more than 350,000 water quality tests every year.

• Has the UK’s best record for detecting and tackling leaks given the size of its network.


Anglian Water, the region’s main supplier, is staging a week-long exhibition at The Forum in Norwich, starting today.

H2OMG is a showcase for the company’s work in maximising the efficient use of water, an opportunity for the public to see how we can all help to safeguard supplies, and a chance to have a say in how we feel about Anglian Water’s service and how it should spend our hard earned bill money in future.

A spokesman said: “What our customers tell us will have an influence on our long term business plan. And the more people that take part, the surer we can be that our plan deals with the issues our customers care about.

“We face a wide range of challenges. The amount of water available remains the same and may even decline. So it’s essential we speak to customers to get their opinions to overcome these challenges and protect the environment and keep taps running.

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