Aware that the water industry needs to secure public trust and demonstrate its critical role in protecting the environment, the company’s Strategic Direction Statement (SDS) has eight outcomes to be delivered for customers and stakeholders between now and 2050.
Long renowned as an industry leader for service and environmental performance, Wessex Water said protecting the planet and adapting to a changing climate were central to its future ambitions – but added that a new approach to regulation is needed if the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan is to meet its bold commitment to improve the environment within a generation.
Wessex Water’s eight SDS outcomes are:
- A safe and reliable water supply: We will work in catchments with partners to protect and enhance raw water quality and invest to ensure infrastructure is available now and in the future to treat water to the highest standards, while providing our customers with an uninterrupted supply.
- An effective sewerage system: We are future-proofing our networks and creating extra sewerage capacity to help deal with population growth, climate change and extreme weather events to reduce the impact of sewer flooding on our customers. We will continue to make the case for planning authorities and government to review the ‘right to connect’ that developers have, which permits the discharge of rainwater from new sites to the sewerage network.
- Affordable bills: We aim to end water poverty by ensuring no-one spends more than 5% of their disposable income on our water and sewerage services. We are absolutely committed to continuing to help customers in this way, including by delivering an efficient service for all and going the extra mile to help those in extreme financial difficulty.
- Exceptional customer experience: We plan to go beyond being an industry leader and will measure ourselves against the very top customer service providers in the UK. We’ve got an excellent foundation to build from, but being among the best of the best will see us embrace new technologies and digital developments to provide an effortless service – however a customer chooses to get in touch – but remain true to our longstanding ‘warm voice at the end of the phone’ philosophy.
- Sustainable abstraction: We pledge to never harm the health of the water environment through our abstraction, as we continue to provide for our customers’ needs in the face of climate change and population growth. The amount of water we can abstract is governed by licences issued by the Environment Agency.
- Great river and coastal water quality: We will eliminate the discharge of untreated sewage from storm overflows, prioritising those that discharge most frequently and those that have any environmental impact. And we’ll embrace new technologies to monitor our entire network, which will help us prevent incidents and ensure compliance as we work towards complete elimination.
- Net zero carbon: We have already pledged to be an early mover in mitigating the climate emergency by achieving net zero carbon emissions from our operations as early as 2030. In addition, we are targeting net zero embodied carbon associated with the materials, products and services we use by 2040 – ten years ahead of the national goal. We will optimise our processes to reduce the greenhouse gases, move our transport fleet to low-carbon technology and increase our use and generation of renewable energy.
- Increased biodiversity: Over the next 25 years we will further enhance our region’s biodiversity, doubling our improvement impact. We will choose nature-based solutions such as wetlands where we can, instead of grey infrastructure solutions. We will continue to invest in specific projects to boost wildlife and public access to our land.
Wessex Water’s vision for Outcome-Based Environmental Regulation (OBER) would see regulators setting targets at an outcome level rather than the current focus on output-driven commitments, such as leakage and per capita consumption in isolation as opposed to the overall contribution towards sustainable abstraction from the environment.
Companies could make greater environmental improvements for less cost if incentivised around outcomes and, crucially, they are given flexibility to determine the most efficient way of delivering these outcomes on the ground.
Colin Skellett, Wessex Water Chief Executive, said: “Through our SDS, we envisage water companies and regulators changing together for a cleaner, greener future – as set out in the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan – delivered at pace and affordably for customers. It highlights what is possible if we all act together and act now.”
Find out more about our Strategic Direction Statement