Water companies behind on infrastructure goals, says environment chief

Some water companies risk missing legally binding deadlines after falling behind on their infrastructure targets, the head of England’s environment regulator has warned.

Certain firms were “significantly behind” on work in the current AMP7 five-year capital programme, which runs from 2020-2025, Environment Agency chief executive Philip Duffy told the Environmental Audit Committee last Wednesday (24 April).

He added: “That is a pretty unprecedented situation. I don’t think the agency has been in that situation before.”

Duffy said there was “significant risk” that water companies will miss the 2027 target for good surface water quality under the EU-era Water Framework Directive. He added he had been transparent with water companies that they would face enforcement action if they missed the 2027 deadline.

Duffy declined to name which water companies he was most concerned about.

Environment Agency chair Alan Lovell said it would be clear there were “two tiers of water companies at the moment” in the agency’s upcoming Environmental Performance Assessment, due in July.

Duffy said some water companies had not delivered work promised to regulator Ofwat in their 2019 investment plans, although he added that many were doing well.

Water companies pledged in 2019 to spend £51bn by March 2025 to defend against floods, reduce leaks and address long-term drought challenges. Investment will almost double to £96bn in the next five-year cycle, starting next April.

Last Friday (26 April), South West Water announced Bam Nuttall, Clancy, Mott MacDonald Bentley, Tilbury Douglas, MWH Treatment and Network Plus Envolve as its main construction partners for AMP8 (2025-2030).

The contractors were selected following what the client described as a “highly competitive” tendering process.

South West Water will appoint 10 local companies in May to support the £2.8bn programme.

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