There are many different water companies in the United Kingdom, some dealing solely with water and others that work with sewage as well. With the exception of customers in Northern Island, users must pay for their use of water. Different companies lend their services to different locations throughout the country. It is important to be aware of your water provider, and the options you have to pay for their service. It isn’t possible to change to a different water company, though water rates tend to be similar from location to location.
There are often many disputes regarding this monopoly over water suppliers. Customers are linked to one company, and if external factors cause a rise in water rates, the customers have no choice but to accept this. The economic troubles of recent times have played a big part in this controversy, as well as incidents such as damage to pipelines that affect specific regions.
The British company OFWAT (Office of Water Services) is a branch of the government that aims to regulate water rates between different water companies. They carefully study the actions and investments of different companies, and put pressure on them to offer fair water rates. Water companies offer a public service, and are therefore unable to operate independently without government scrutiny.
Though customers cannot change their water company, they can take action to save on their water rates, or to put pressure on the water companies. The installation of a water meter could potentially save many customers a significant amount of money on their water bill. Many customers simply pay a fixed rate, and this doesn’t take into account their average usage. A water meter could allow many customers to take action to minimise their water usage, and have this reflected in their water bill.
Customers are urged to contact their local Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) if they feel their water company is treating them unfairly. This allows them to go above the heads of those working in the water companies, and the CCWater will often pursue these issues if they receive enough complaints. People can also regulate their use of water by being more efficient and conscious of the environment. If enough people do this, it has the potential to put enormous pressure on water companies.
The issue of water companies monopolising water services is an important one. OFWAT and CCWater work towards ensuring that water rates provided by the water companies are fair.