In just a few months the monopolies that control much of the English water market will be swept away by changes to the law. Businesses are being advised to prepare now for the potential savings reform will bring.
The Water Act 2014 means that in April 2017 the non-domestic water market in England will be fully open to competition. This will allow businesses to switch their water services supplier rather than being forced to rely on monopolistic providers.
Already in England the largest users of water (sites which use more than 5,000 cubic metres of water a year), have the right to switch provider. However the changes will open up a competitive market to all businesses.
It means English firms will have the same opportunities to save money on their water bills as Scottish companies, which have benefited from an open market since 2008.
Ahead of the reform, energy management consultancy Inprova has released a guide advising English companies to start preparing now for the changes.
It advises companies to review current water spend, identify opportunities to reduce charges and wastage, formulate a water procurement strategy to be ready for the tendering process and improve water management and efficiency now.
Business Stream, a subsidiary of Scottish Water, said that by 2014 it was able to cut £100 million from customer bills as a result of the opening market.
The savings principally came about through water efficiency measures and lower prices. At the same time the changes led to 20bn fewer litres of water being used, according to the Carbon Trust.
In England Open Water, which is delivering the new competitive market, believes the changes will save businesses around £200m.
Mike Lee, water services manager for Inprova, said: “While businesses have benefited from the deregulated gas and electricity market, most haven't been able to choose their water supplier.
“With the water market changes taking place, many of England's businesses will be able to secure lower costs through tariff optimisation, improved service and streamlined billing."
He said that while no plans had been announced yet for changes in Wales or Northern Ireland, some suppliers will offer UK-wide deals for multi-site customers, which can lead to simpler administration of water spend.
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