£13.7bn water investment in the pipeline

By Ged Henderson

04 Oct 2023

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United Utilities has published a £13.7bn investment plan it says will deliver cleaner rivers, more reliable water supplies and extra support for customers struggling with bills

The company has said the proposals, if accepted, would be “the biggest ever investment in water infrastructure for over 100 years”.

They include investing more than £870m to improve the river environment of Lancashire.

Announcing the plan United Utilities said it would support 30,000 jobs across the region, including 7,000 new posts, “helping to build a stronger, greener and healthier North West for everyone”.

The business is planning to double its financial support for those who need it, with a package of £525m to help one in six customers who may be struggling to pay their water bill.

From 2025, the company says it plans to deliver the best quality tap water by investing in aqueducts to safeguard water supplies for more than two million customers and improve water quality for a further 1.4 million.

More than 900 kilometres of water mains would be upgraded to reduce leakage and interruptions to supplies and it says that further work to improve resilience would halve the chance of having a hosepipe ban in the future.

River water quality would be improved through projects to reduce spills from storm overflows by more than 60 per cent by 2030. In a statement the company said: “This is the largest proposed programme to reduce storm overflow spills in the UK.”

In Lancashire, United Utilities is looking to spend more than £280m to improve water quality at four shellfish and four bathing water sites in places such as Morecambe and Fleetwood.

Its plan will look to reduce spills from 158 storm overflows and improve 35 kilometres of rivers in the county.

The proposed measures will support more than 55,000 people in Lancashire struggling to pay their bills.

Louise Beardmore, United Utilities chief executive, said: “We’ve been listening to customers and communities right across our region to understand what really matters. What’s clear is that we need to improve services for customers and the environment.

“That’s why we are proposing the largest investment in water and wastewater infrastructure in over 100 years.

“It’s a hugely ambitious plan, and we've engaged with 95,000 people across our five great counties of Cumbria, Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, to make sure we get it right, shaping our plans for each county to address the things that they’ve told us matter most.

“Our plan will secure water supplies for the future, halving the need for hosepipe bans, reduce storm overflow spills into our rivers and seas and upgrade our water network to cut leakage and service interruptions for customers.

 “This historic investment will deliver a significant boost to the economy of the North West, supporting 30,000 jobs, of which 7,000 are new roles.

“We will also double our support for those struggling to pay their bills, with more than half a billion pounds of extra help – enabling us to support more than one in six households.”

She added: “We are ready to move forward and bring the step change people want to see and we’re already underway after bringing forward £1.2bn investment earlier this year.”

United Utilities has submitted its draft business plan for the period 2025- 2030 to Ofwat. The regulator will review the proposals and give its draft response by June 2024. The final plans will be agreed by December next year.

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