Next steps for England’s water market - consumer services, infrastructure development, environmental obligations, etc.

Date: 8th September 2021

Location: Online

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine the future development of water markets in England - and the regulatory and industry frameworks needed to meet consumer services needs, environmental obligations, and modernisation of infrastructure.

The conference will also look at latest thinking on priorities for the Price Review 2024, with early stage preparations beginning shortly, as well as the corresponding discussion papers that have already been published, and which look at:

  • future challenges and opportunities for the water sector
  • reflecting customer preferences in future price reviews
  • what has been learned from the Price Review 2019


In addition to developments around the Price Review, delegates will have the opportunity to discuss next steps for England’s water market in the context of wider policy initiatives, such as the Environment Bill and the National Infrastructure Strategy, as well as other significant factors such as recovery from COVID-19 and adapting to climate change.

We are pleased to be able to include keynote contributions from Aileen Armstrong, Senior Director, Ofwat; and Sophie Broadfield, Deputy Director, Water Services, Defra.

Sessions in the agenda will bring out latest thinking on:

  • PR24 design and potential scope of recommendations - including ensuring that funding:
    • is appropriate for potential market shocks
    • accounts for innovation in technology and business models
    • addresses long-term implications from COVID
  • learning from implementation of the PR19 regime:
    • priorities for minimising future disagreements
    • striking a fair balance for supplier return and consumer bills
    • ensuring funding meets the needs of a clean recovery
  • developing long-term infrastructure that is fit for use and climate resilient:
    • meeting challenges presented by flooding and droughts, local deficiencies and infrastructure gaps
    • delivering cost-effective asset modernisation
  • enhancing environmental preservation - priorities and next steps for:
    • supporting pollution reduction and improvements to wastewater treatment
    • widening natural habitat protections
    • latest thinking on reaching net-zero emissions
  • improving services and quality for consumers - options for:
    • adapting to changing consumer behaviours
    • keeping bills affordable
    • delivering rapid maintenance and repairs

A scan of relevant developments:

  • 2024 price review (PR24) - a consultation on the scope of future price reviews is set for release later this year by Ofwat in preparation for policy positions laid out in PR24, expected for development over 2023 and 2024, with a number of related discussion papers already published, including:
    • PR24 and beyond: Future challenges and opportunities for the water sector - looking at key issues facing the water sector going ahead, and how these can be addressed, including:
      • mitigating risks from climate change
      • meeting growing consumer pressures, such as income uncertainty due to COVID
      •  addressing long-term risks like flooding
    • PR24 and beyond: Reflecting customer preferences in future price reviews - which looks at:
      • steps Ofwat can take to ensure suppliers improve collection systems for managing consumer needs and preferences
      • how relationships can be enhanced between both parties
    • PR24 and beyond: Our reflections on lessons learnt from PR19 - which focuses on:
      • improvements made for PR19 over the regime framework of PR14
      • what considerations are to be made as part of the forthcoming consultation on the future of price reviews in England
  • 2019 price review (PR19) - having come into force in 2020, PR19 established a new framework regime for the water retail sector for the period 2020 to 2025, with changes including:
    • new prices set for the commercial costs of water supply, provided to consumers by retailers
    • the setting of new funding rates and obligations for maintenance and upgrade services, delivered by suppliers
    • guidance on meeting consumer and environmental obligations
  • the Environment Bill- included again in the Queen’s Speech, and expected to be given royal assent by this Autumn:
    • introducing new obligations for holding Government to account on environmental standards and targets, including for water and biodiversity
    • with the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) being established to utilise new powers for environmental enforcement
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - the Government’s long-term plan for developing infrastructure across the UK and ensuring it is fit for purpose, with £600bn earmarked for public infrastructure investment over the next five years, including for:
    • water systems, wastewater, drainage and flooding projects
    • adapting the water sector to climate change threats

Key areas for discussion:

Implementation of the recent Price Review period:

  • the PR19 regime - lessons learned for:
    • minimising stakeholder disagreements
    • improving cooperation and compromise
    • entrenching reforms that improved operational efficiency for suppliers
  • potential market framework design for PR24 - and overcoming challenges around setting better supplier obligations:
    • assessing the right level for rate setting and market financialisaton
    • building resilience to market shocks
    • factoring in new business models
    • creating regulator and retailer agility in the face of events like COVID
  • next steps for delivering quality consumer services - and meeting changing consumer behaviours:
    • refining customer complaint and preference monitoring
    • ensuring water services are cost effective, and maintenance and repairs are completed on time

Preparing water system infrastructure for long-term use:

  • dovetailing with national infrastructure goals - looking at priorities for:
    • modernising water infrastructure
    • making assets fit for growing demand, and ensuring they contribute to economic growth and recovery
  • working within the planning system - looking at best practice, including:
    • options for delivering cost-effective projects at speed
    • preparing for house building expansion
  • ensuring resilient development:
    • overcoming barriers to system resilience
    • priorities for making sure asset development builds resilience against future risks, including flooding, droughts, and poor drainage systems
  • overcoming regional disparities in water asset quality - latest thinking on:
    • improving the quality of regional infrastructure assets
    • widening access to funding and maintenance
    • supporting skills growth
    • integrating water within the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda

Next steps for environmental preservation across water resources:

  • minimising water operation impact on the environment - latest thinking on:
    • improving wastewater treatment and management
    • pollution reduction methods and priorities for decarbonisation
    • integrating stronger environmental commitments
  • overcoming challenges to greater ecosystem security and biodiversity:
    • scaling up collaboration across suppliers and environmental stakeholders
    • delivering targeting measures to habitat preservation and restoration
  • working towards net-zero within the water sector - looking at next steps for:
    • improving operational efficiency
    • utilising new technologies and innovation
    • opportunities for collaboration and stakeholder obligations
    • the scope for asset sharing to reduce carbon intensity

The agenda:

  • Examining the implementation of the PR19 regime - lessons learned from its delivery process, and next steps for improving sector cooperation and consumer protection
  • Market design priorities for water services, and latest thinking on industry obligations for PR24 - the scope for future financial structures, building resilience to market shocks, and delivering value to households and water users
  • Infrastructure development for long-term water system preparedness, and opportunities for the sector to contribute to national infrastructure modernisation goals
  • Overcoming challenges to water infrastructure upgrades and addressing gaps in regional asset quality - optimising the network for future demand, navigating the planning system, and leveraging local skills and engagement
  • Minimising environmental impacts from water sector operations and improving resilience - boosting wastewater management and protection for ecosystems and habitats, and working towards net-zero and a green recovery
  • Policy priorities for England’s water sector, and ensuring regulation supports infrastructure modernisation, service quality and meeting environmental goals

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

Overall, we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials in this area of public policy, together with environmental and emissions organisations, representatives from energy-intensive sectors including power generation and transport, infrastructure, engineering and building groups, finance and investment companies, technology and innovation organisations, legal representatives, agricultural and land-use companies, local government and international delegates, charities and campaign groups, academics and think tanks, and reporters from the national and trade media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

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