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Benefits still flowing a decade after water deregulation
25th July 2018
What can you remember about 2008? It was the year that Heathrow opened Terminal Five, Team GB won 19 gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, and Woolworths went bust along with Gretna Football Club. While this didn’t capture the same level of media attention, it was also the year that the commercial water market was deregulated in Scotland.
In 2008 the retail water sector, then valued at £330 million, was opened up to new companies which, once licensed, were able to offer water and waste water services to businesses and other commercial premises across Scotland. This ended the monopoly of the incumbent provider Scottish Water Business Stream, which had to rebrand and restructure itself under a private sector business model in an attempt to retain as many of its 94,000 customers as possible.
There’s certainly been a fair amount of water under the bridge since those early days. There are now 26 licenced water services companies operating within the Scottish marketplace. Business Stream’s share of the more than 200,000 active supply sites has nearly halved in that time.
The introduction of competition created a new culture of customer service which continues to benefit the Scottish business community today. While there has been a reduction in tariffs for many, the key change has been the enhanced focus on working with customers to positively change their culture of water usage.
New entrant companies like ours are proactively advising business customers on how they can reduce waste and improve efficiency. This includes simple advice which can typically identify around 10 per cent savings in consumption to more in depth site audits to investigate historic usage, review current services and benchmark customers against similar businesses in their industry. Along with a greater emphasis on leak detection and repairs, customers are also benefitting from advisory services focused on how they harvest and recycle water within their businesses. This includes the implementation of rainwater collection facilities and the use of grey water systems, all of which are further reducing water and waste charges and lowering carbon footprints.
Another key benefit of deregulation is that Scottish Water has improved its means of identifying commercial premises which have been receiving services without being charged, making it a fairer system for all.
We must not underestimate the environmental impact that has come as a result of a competitive commercial water services market. Water is a finite resource, even in Scotland. Over the last decade many companies, often assisted by their water provider, have made significant consumption savings and that work continues to this day.
As the deregulated Scottish commercial water market has developed over the past decade, so too has the use of social media, empowering customers to highlight poor standards. With a competitive market in place, service providers have become much more tuned in and responsive towards customer feedback, helping reverse the poor reputation for customer service within the utilities sector.
While it may not be the highest profile development of 2008, the deregulation of Scotland’s commercial water market has made a significant impact. It has resulted in savings for many Scottish companies and reduced consumption and waste of a precious resource. As the market continues to evolve, so much more can be achieved to further benefit the business community and the wider environment.
Rich Rankin, Managing Director of Brightwater