Test water competition now to get ahead of the curve

Big firms can get ahead of the water competition curve reckons Business Stream's David Seymour.
Big firms can get ahead of the water competition curve reckons Business Stream’s David Seymour.

Although water supply competition in April 2017 is still some way off, large businesses in England can benefit now by making savings and better managing risk. Firms should test the market to gain competitive advantage, says Business Stream’s David Seymour.

Most people in the UK’s water market will be aware that the non-domestic water market is set to change. After receiving Royal Assent in May this year, the Water Bill has endorsed a competitive retail water market for England from April 2017.

Giving businesses choice in their water supplier has been proven as an effective way of driving up customer service, value for money and innovation, as demonstrated by Scotland’s very successful non-domestic competitive water market which has been operating since 2008.

But the benefits of competition for English businesses are not entirely reserved for April 2017. Many organisations can benefit now by testing the market ahead of it opening.

Negotiate better prices

High volume customers – i.e. those which use more than five megalitres (ML) of water for a single site – are already eligible to choose and switch their water provider. This gives you leverage with your current provider but also means you can try out another one to see if you get better service. Drainage and waste water services will need to stay with your current incumbent until the market opens, but in the meantime ‘playing the field’ like this should give you an insight into how simple it is to switch and help you identify what you’re looking for in a supplier.

If your water consumption is under the 5ML threshold, there are still a variety of options and services available to you which could streamline your water services while saving you both time and money.

Get smart

Automated meter readers (AMRs) collect water readings from your supply system every 15 minutes to a centralised dashboard which shows you how much water is used, and where, across your water network. This is a simple and cost effective step to automate your water services management, better understand your water use, and use this information to reduce the cost of your water.

We’ve worked with a major supermarket and by installing AMRs UK wide the company has been able to make informed decisions on how to manage its water services and stay on track for its target of an overall 15% reduction.

Another service which has proven useful for our customers of scale in both England and Scotland is network mapping. This involves building an interactive map of your organisation’s water and sewerage mains, and the local water supply system. It allows you to see where pipes are located, how they link with other services, and how to isolate them if there is a problem. If an issue arises it is then much easier to deal with it without needing to shut down the entire system.

Sort out your compliance

For businesses which produce significant trade effluent, staying compliant can be a complicated undertaking. Legislation is complex and changes often, but businesses are legally required to be compliant 100% of the time.

A simple route to getting on top of your compliance requirements is to commission an independent trade effluent health check. This will assess if your business is complying and will also indicate areas where you can streamline resources to save money.

We recently helped Devro save £500,000 from its water transport bill by working in partnership to update its trade effluent treatment management. We initially brought in mobile equipment to provide a swift, temporary treatment solution to the immediate issue of ammonia pollution. We then worked closely with the Devro team to design a system which neutralises the effects of the ammonia using a unique ‘air-stripping’ process. This also means that Devro is able to recycle some of the effluent, thus contributing to a key business objective.

Although April 2017 is still some way off, businesses in England can benefit now by making savings and better managing risk.

David Seymour is Head of Market Development at Business Stream.

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