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Sunday, March 29, 1998 Published at 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK

Talking Point

UK water: Are you getting value for money?

Water charges have risen steeply since privatisation in 1989 along with sharp increases in the already high salaries of company bosses.

And although, happily, service quality has risen too, failures continue with confusing inconsistencies between national and regional standards.

Nonetheless, the majority of customers surveyed for the BBC's Water Week believe that UK water companies know their business and give value for money.

Water Week looks at how the water industry is performing in serving you, its customers.

Visit our BBC Water Week site

Since privatisation of the water industry in England and Wales in 1989, value for money has been a slippery issue.

But, as no one can live without water or get away without paying for it, its quality and management concern all customers.

So, we want you to tell us what you you think of the water industry and whether you think customers' money is being put to good use.

These are the main areas for scrutiny:

  • Standards of drinking water: These have risen in England and Wales between 1992 and 1996. But Northern Ireland has not done as well.
  • Level of profit made by private companies: 2bn profit was made in 1997 but the hoped amount of investment in improvements has been lacking.
  • Large salaries of company directors: These are particularly high in the private sector, although many of these companies have expanded considerably too.
  • Level of leakages: These are getting better but are still far too high, particularly in drought conditions. Nearly every one in Britain could have a bath in the volume of water lost every day
  • Quality of bathing water: In 1997 only 88.8% of UK bathing waters complied with EU hygiene standards. And in 1996/7 only 50% of 34 bathing waters in north west of England met EU standards.
  • Pollution: Overall there has been an improvement in pollution control. But regionally, there are still problems. Eg, Welsh Water and Severn Water have been prosecuted 40 times since 1989/90.

    Water providers say cost control and value for money is not all down to them. We should all be doing our bit to make our money go further. Showers instead of baths, the sparing use of washing machines and so on.

    But, even in in our environmentally aware age, is this just a mask for inefficiency and wasteage on their part?

    What do you think?

    Are you getting value for money from your water provider?

    What you have said so far:

    To charge a profit for a necessity like water is an abomination...
    J.Douglas, UK

    I believe my water company is doing its best to provide value for money.....
    James Burrows, Bristol, UK

    Install a water meter - it's the only answer...
    Mark Johnston, UK

    Your reaction in full

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