Education - frequently asked questions
1. How many water companies are there in the UK?
There are 10 regional water and sewerage companies covering England and Wales. In addition there are a further 15 companies that supply water only.
2. What area does Wessex Water cover?
We cover an area of 10,000 km2 in the south west of England. The area includes Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, most of Wiltshire and parts of Gloucestershire, Hampshire and Devon.
3. Where does Wessex Water get its water from?
Around 75% of our water comes from groundwater sources (aquifers and springs) with the remaining coming from surface water reservoirs.
4. Where can I find statistics about Wessex Water?
Head to our facts and figures pages, which are updated every year.
7. Why does Wessex Water have more sewage than supply customers?
Parts of our region are covered by other water supply companies, such as Bristol Water and Sembcorp Bournemouth Water.
8. How do you treat water to send it to our homes?
The process of water treatment can vary depending on the source of water, with surface water requiring more treatment than groundwater.
9. How do you treat the dirty water that flows from homes, schools and factories?
All dirty water from customers travels to the local sewage treatment works where it is cleaned and returned safely to the environment.
10. Which main rivers run through the Wessex Water region?
Principal rivers include: River Avon, River Wylye, River Stour, River Yeo, River Axe, River Parrett.
11. How do you check the quality of the water?
All water companies are monitored by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) so all water supplied to homes must be of a very high standard.
At all our treatment works water quality is monitored to pre-set limits and samples are sent to our laboratories in Bath.
12. How do you look after your customers?
We have an agreement known as the "Wessex Water Promise" which sets out the high standards of service that we provide. All guarantees are underpinned with a "no quibble" promise, and our compensation payments are amongst he highest in the water industry.
13. What regulations exist that Wessex Water must comply with?
The water industry is subject to a range of legislation. Wessex Water has three main regulators: the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the Environment Agency and the Office of Water Services, Ofwat.
The Drinking Water Inspectorate regulates public water supplies in England and Wales and is responsible for monitoring the quality of drinking water.
The Environment Agency is responsible for the regulation and management of land, air and water resources in England and Wales.
Ofwat is the independent economic regulator of the water and sewerage industry with responsibility for setting prices and ensuring companies like Wessex Water carry out and finance their business properly. See question 14 for more information. Other key pieces of legislation are mentioned below.
Waste Water Collection and Treatment
Virtually all discharges to the aquatic environment are governed by documents called Discharge Consents. These are legal agreements issued by the Environment Agency (EA) to the water company, which set out conditions under which the discharge can be made. Every one of our sewage treatment works has one and there are also many storm overflows on the sewerage system (pipes, mains and pumping stations) that have a Discharge Consent. They are issued under the Water Resources Act 1991. Conditions in a consent can be both quantitative and qualitative and if we fail to meet the standards, it may lead to prosecution.
Clean Water Supply and Distribution
Water Abstraction Licences are issued by the EA similarly to control the amount of water we take from the environment for supply. These are also granted under the Water Resources Act 1991 and failure to comply may lead to prosecution. The quality of water supplied to the tap is regulated by the Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2000 and compliance is monitored by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI).
There is a general requirement not to cause pollution included in the Water Industry Act 1991 and there is a plethora of other legislation that affects a water company, some of the more important of which are listed below.
- The Environment Act
- Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive
- Bathing Water Directive
- Sludge Use in Agriculture Regulations
- Water Supply Byelaws
- Habitats Directive
- Environment Protection Act
- Shellfish Waters
- Hygiene Directives
The requirements in European Directives are transposed into UK law through Regulations. If all UK water companies comply with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations, for example, then the UK complies with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive.
14. What is OFWAT?
Ofwat is the economic regulator of the water and sewerage industry in England and Wales. They regulate the industry by setting limits on what companies can charge you ensuring companies are able to carry out their responsibilities under the Water Industry Act 1991 as updated by section 39 of the Water Act 2003.
It also protects the standard of service you receive, encourage companies to be more efficient, meet the principles of sustainable development and help to encourage competition where appropriate.