CUSTOMERS and the environment are set to benefit from major initiatives by Welsh Water, made possible by its not-for-profit business model.
As cost-of-living pressure increases and with its focus on reducing any adverse impact on the environment, the company is taking steps to take full advantage of its unique operating model to support its household customers and the environment.
Welsh Water, which already provides financial support to a larger number of customers, proportionate to the company’s size, than any other water company in England and Wales, has confirmed that it will:
maintain its range of support measures to help customers manage their bills such as payment holidays, flexible payment plans, and advice on simple ways to reduce water use
invest £12million to expand the financial support to an extra 50,000 households either through its “social tariffs” scheme or a new community fund
launch a pilot of the community fund in January 2023 to target customers who are struggling with household bills but are ineligible for benefits and, therefore, Welsh Water’s social tariffs.
The role that the company plays in protecting river water quality has come under increased focus over the past year, with Welsh Water already investing heavily to reduce its phosphate contribution to rivers. The company has already committed to investing £833 million to improve its wastewater assets, particularly Combined Storm Overflows (CSOs), on sensitive rivers between 2020 and 2025 and has also announced an additional £100 million investment to help protect river water quality.
This further investment allows the company to accelerate plans to install more phosphate removal plants at wastewater treatment works (£60 million) and to reduce the impact of CSOs – particularly those which are located along Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) rivers (£40 million). This will mean investing in its key assets at sites such as the Menai Strait (£10 million), Brecon
(£6 million), Monmouth (£2 million) Trebanos (£2 million) as well as Llanybydder, Lampeter, Wolfscastle, Corwen, Llanfoist and Letterston (£20 million). It will also enable more nature-based solutions to be developed to help improve river quality. On, for example, the river Wye the company is working with the Wye & Usk Foundation and Hereford Council to support additional phosphorus removal using natural treatment through a low carbon wetland system which will also enhance local biodiversity.
Cllr Liz Harvey, Deputy Leader of Herefordshire Council said: “The close collaborative working with Welsh Water and the Wye and Usk Foundation is slowly getting housebuilding in the county moving again and making a contribution to improving our rivers too.”
This announcement of funding to support vulnerable customers and protect the environment comes as the company reports on its half year results. Despite the wider challenges facing the economy, the company has maintained a strong performance. This has included continuing to invest just over £1 million per day on improvements to its water and wastewater networks.
The company has also confirmed that it is working on a scheme to support its employees through the cost-of-living crisis and has already implemented the increase to the Real Living Wage for all affected employees.
Glas Cymru Chairman, Alastair Lyons, said: “Our non-shareholder business model sets us apart from the other water companies in England & Wales and it is important that we demonstrate how it provides tangible benefit to our customers. I am, therefore, very pleased that not needing to reward shareholders makes it possible for us to announce this additional investment to benefit our customers and the environment. This builds on the millions of pounds our model has already allowed us to invest to help keep bills affordable for customers and deliver essential investment schemes to improve services for customers and mitigate the impact of our operations on the environment”.
Welsh Water Chief Executive, Peter Perry, said: “The current financial crisis is understandably a worrying time and will mean that more customers will find themselves in a situation where they struggle to pay their bills. With the goal of earning the trust of our customers, we know that we have an important role to play here which is why we are going to be supporting even more customers in this time of need. Our advice to customers is to contact us the moment the bill becomes a worry so that we can look how we can provide support to alleviate this concern.
“Equally as important is that we redouble our efforts to protect the environment, particularly river water quality. With expectations changing, more needs to be done, especially to reduce the impact of CSOs. Removing them from our sewerage system altogether is not an option but what is in our control is the ability to target investment at those CSOs which have the biggest impact so that we can improve their performance and river water quality. The extra £100 million will enable us to bring forward investment schemes to help achieve this and will build on the £833 million we are already investing in our wastewater network through to 2025.”