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Do you understand the open water market?

26 April 2017

The English water market opened for competition on the 1st April 2017. This means that eligible businesses will now be able to choose their retail supplier for water and wastewater services. By having the freedom to choose, your business could spend less money, save more water and acquire a more tailored service.

How does this work?

The open water market works in much the same way as other utility markets, such as gas and electricity.

Licensed retailers now buy ‘wholesale’ water and wastewater services from the regional water companies. This means that whilst the regional companies still manage water supply, treat any wastewater and maintain water pipe networks, eligible businesses have the freedom to select which retail outlet to buy the service from.

Retailers will package water services with additional services and attempt to compete for business. Consequently, customers are able to choose their retailer by looking at who can provide the best deal and service for them; this may involve choosing a new supplier or negotiating a better deal with you current one.

  1. The job of a retailer
  • Compete with other retailers to provide best services and deals
  • Handle day to day enquiries about services and bills
  • Hold the main relationship with the customer
  • Bill the customer
  1. The job of a wholesaler
  • Supply water and sewerage services on behalf of the retailer
  • Maintain water and sewerage networks
  • Carry out operational work, such as repairs

What are the benefits?

Having the freedom to choose your water service provider has a number of benefits for both your company and for the environment, these may include:

  • More cost effective – help you save money;
  • Tailored services for your company – e.g. consolidated billing;
  • More efficient water usage;
  • Reduced carbon emissions from cuts in water use;
  • Increased innovation and better technology.

Who is eligible?

Large organisations have had the freedom to choose their water service retail supplier for some time. Since the market opened to competition on the 1st of April, there are now around 1.2 million businesses eligible to switch or negotiate with their water retail supplier.

Non-household customers are likely to be eligible if the premises are used mainly for business and supplied from a wholly or mainly English based water company, this can include:

  • Businesses (small or large);
  • Charities and not-for-profit organisations;
  • Public sector bodies.

(If you want to find out whether your business is eligible to switch, you can use the open-water eligibility guide)

Opening up the water market for competition is the biggest change in the UK water industry since privatisation and has created the largest water market in the world.

Do you think that your business could benefit from this change?

For more information see the open water website.

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