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Water Week Monday, 23 March, 1998, 10:14 GMT
Getting fat on water
tap
The BBC asked market researchers BMRB to help us find out what consumers think of the water services in their area. On the face of it, it looks like they generally approve of the service they get.

But as Bill Bush, BBC Head of Research, reports, consumers are worried about the environment and about the way the companies seem to put profits and directors' pay ahead of their concerns about their customers.

Over half (56%) thought that they got value for money from their water company, just over a quarter (22%) thought that they did not.

However, this did not translate into approval for the way that the top people in the water companies get paid - nearly three-quarters (72%) think that they are paid too much, while only a tiny 5% disagreed.

Nearly four-in-ten thought the companies cared most about making profits. Only 7% said that they put customers first.

Water Bills have risen sharply in the last few years, but that has not stopped people from realising that environmental problems need to be dealt with, even if it that means that bills have to go up even more.

Over half of those interviewed (53%) said that they would be happy to pay more for cleaner rivers and beaches. Just under 40% said that they would not.

These national figures vary from region to region and from company to company, but in general will please clean-up campaigners who think that consumers do understand environmental needs.

Breaking down the UK-wide sample into sub-samples for smaller areas shows that where bills are relatively low - Scotland and Northern Ireland for example - respondents appear to be even more willing to pay a bit more.

Where bills are higher, such as in the South West, they appear to be less keen - although the small sample sizes in these areas mean that the data needs to be treated with caution.

Links to more Water Week stories are at the foot of the page.


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