BBC Water Week is the biggest examination of the water industry ever done by a broadcaster. We have looked at how water and sewerage companies in the UK have been measuring up and in what way consumers and the environment have benefited or suffered as a result.
The BBC has investigated a whole range of issues from the sharp rises in water charges since privatisation, to the amount of water lost every day through leakage and how water consumption in England and Wales compares with other European countries.
The 10 main water and sewerage companies in England and Wales were formed from the old regional water authorities in 1989 when the government privatised the industry. There are also numerous water-only companies that supply around 30% of the population. They are all regulated by Ofwat, the water industry’s watchdog body.
In Scotland water and sewerage services are provided by three public water authorities, which are controlled by government agencies. In Northern Ireland water and sewerage services are provided by the Water Service, part of the Department for the Environment for Northern Ireland.
Households in England and Wales are now paying an average of 44% more for water and sewerage services than they were before privatisation. Although as prices have risen so have standards. But, in tandem with these improvements, there have been failures and inconsistencies. Many improvements on a national level mask clear regional differences.