UK water industry compares well in new Ofwat international study

Water industry performance in England and Wales comes out well when compared with nine other developed countries in an Ofwat study published today. The report examines the seven areas that form the basis of the UK Office of Water Services (Ofwat) comparative work on the water companies in England and Wales during 2002-03...

London, March 21, 2005 (GNN) -- Water industry performance in England and Wales comes out well when compared with nine other developed countries in an Ofwat study published today.

The report -- "International Comparison of Water and Sewerage Service 2005 Report" -- examines the seven areas that form the basis of the UK Office of Water Services (Ofwat) comparative work on the water companies in England and Wales during 2002-03.

It compares the performance of the 22 companies in England and Wales with that of a range of water enterprises in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Australia and the United States.

Accurate comparisons with many European Union countries are still difficult because in many places the water industry is an integral part of local government which does not produce data in a similar form to that of commercial companies.

The report finds:
-- Bills: Domestic customers in England and Wales had similar bills to those in the other countries. Charges for business customers were in line with their European counterparts.

-- Customer service levels: In areas such as dealing with complaints, telephone inquiries, pressure levels and incidence of sewer flooding, customers in England and Wales received at least as good a service as those in most other countries and a significantly better service than in Scotland.

-- Water quality and environmental performance: Water quality, as measured by levels of coliforms, lead, turbidity (clarity of water) and colour, was better in England and Wales than in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The quality of coastal waters in England and Wales was generally better than in Scotland and Northern Ireland although those countries had seen improvements over the previous five years. Australian enterprises which were studied tended to treat sewage to a higher level than in England and Wales.

-- Water use: The amount of water used in England and Wales is fairly similar to that in mainland Europe although lower than in Australia and the USA, where much greater quantities are used for gardening and swimming pools. Leakage levels are highest in the USA, and extremely low in the Netherlands where they report a range of between eight and 37 litres per property per day.

-- Efficiency: Unit costs per property are broadly similar in Australia, the Netherlands and England and Wales, but much higher in the USA. Companies in England and Wales are considerably more efficient than Scottish Water.

-- Network performance: Most companies' mains are in better condition than those in Scotland and are less likely to suffer bursts than those in Australia. Most companies' sewers are in similar or better condition than Scotland's.

-- Financial performance: Financial figures for areas such as the return on capital, dividend and interest cover appear to be broadly similar with bigger variations between individual companies than between countries.

The Ofwat report, "International Comparison of Water and Sewerage Service
2002-03 " will be available from the Ofwat library at its website: www.ofwat.gov.uk.

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