Customers expect the water we supply to be healthy and safe to drink, free of colour and particles, and free of poor tastes and smells.
We measure our performance in three ways:
The Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) is the regulator for drinking water quality and sets exacting standards for all water companies.
We expect variation in performance due to the fact that samples are taken on a random basis.
We continue to be committed to improving water quality and have been delivering our long-term plans to achieve this. Work that is underway throughout the water supply system, ranges from protecting catchments from untreated water through to maintenance and improvements of water treatment and distribution systems.
In 2019 our performance was 99.915%, based on the results of almost 86,911 individual tests carried out in the year.
Out of these tests there were 58 failures in 2019. In comparison our annual performance in 2018 was 99.949%, with 50 sample failures. It is important to note that none of the failures represented a risk to health.
Our target is based on a three-year average performance.
Our target was for 100% drinking water quality compliance. We achieved 99.934%.
As this is less than the penalty threshold of 99.950% set by Ofwat, we have incurred a penalty of £3,984,750.
Very occasionally, for a short time, your tap water may appear discoloured. This is caused by the disturbance of harmless material in our water supply network, possibly caused by a burst or a leak.
The water we supply is normally free from discolouration and clear and bright in its appearance.
Drinking water has miniscule amounts of chemicals and minerals in it, such as calcium, potassium and iron. The discolouration causing material comes from accumulation of some of these chemicals, which coat the insides of the pipes used to move drinking water around our regions. This is a known consequence of piping water supplies and affects all water companies to differing degrees.
To help combat any accumulation, the water leaving the treatment works is of a higher standard than when it reaches the customer tap, this minimises the risk of discolouration still meets all required standards. We manage our network of pipes to move this material on and prevent accumulation, but small amounts still occur.
This measure reflects the number of times we have been contacted by customers due to their tap water being discoloured.
We have been working to improve discoloured water complaints for more than ten years now and our sustained good performance is down to this work. However, we know there is still more to do.
We have identified a new programme of work to tackle this important issue and have received DWI support for our discolouration management plans for 2020–25.
The figures below show our 2019 annual performance improved greatly from 2,594 reports from customers about discoloured water in 2018 to 2,349 contacts in 2019.
Three-year average performance
Our target for this measure is based on a three-year average.
Our target was for 3,108 reports from customers about discoloured water and we did better than that – with 2,492.
This strong performance meant that we were eligible for a financial reward of £406,000 but a penalty for our overall drinking water quality means this is no longer applicable.
This measure reflects the number of times we have been contacted by customers to report issues with the taste or odour of their tap water.
The drinking water we supply is very high quality but occasionally some of our customers perceive different tastes or odours. This could be due to:
Understanding the reasons why customers contact us about taste and odour is complex. Some customers perceive changes in their tap water when other customers do not.
Water that tastes of chemicals or chlorine is unacceptable and we recognise that. We use chlorine in water treatment as a disinfectant to ensure water remains wholesome through the water supply system. However, it has a distinctive taste and odour.
Chlorine accounts for around 30% of customer reports relating to the taste and odour of their water. We have been carefully controlling the level of chlorine in the water, balancing the need for water safety and water acceptability.
This is something we review routinely to make sure we are always striking the right balance of wholesome water and lower chlorine levels to maximise the acceptability.
Water supplies for most areas generally come from the same source, if that changes, this sometimes causes a change in taste. When we carry out maintenance or deal with issues such as burst pipes, water can be re-zoned to an area through a different route or come from a different source.
We are investigating ways to provide customers with a more consistent supply, to keep change to a minimum while still being responsible with resources and maintaining the assets that deliver the service.
When water tastes different for no apparent reason it can be concerning and this sometimes triggers reports from customers. We are improving customer communications to explain when changes are being made. Letters and texts are sent to customers as a reassurance that the change is deliberate, not accidental and is for a fixed time while operational or maintenance activities are carried out.
Our ambitious target for the number of reports of taste and odour issues was 987 contacts. We did better than this by achieving 862 contacts, a significant reduction compared to 1,060 in 2018.
This strong performance earned us a reward of £1,375,000. This is compares to 125 contacts at £11,000 per contact.
Two updated measures will be continue throughout 2020-25:
Two new measures will be introduced:
Our Water Team decided to embrace technology, and see if they could do anything virtually so they could offer support to customers to fix the small issues and to reduce the time customers had to wait for a technician to visit.
Using video technology to be able to see what customers are seeing increases our chances of reducing the number of visits required to fix and issue, and also means we stand a far better chance of that first response being the only one needed. Getting it right first time is the best thing for our customers – and for the environment.
A trial was organised with two customer advisers contacting customers who had reported a problem to see if they were happy to have a virtual appointment.
Distribution Technician, Ray Barrett, volunteered to contact the customers who agreed. Some queries were easier than others. With some going down the self-repair route and others requiring a visit. For self-repairs we sent the parts needed and arranged a further virtual call where we talked customers through the repair. We also provided instructions using YouTube videos demonstrating how to fix, we found customers preferred the follow up virtual visit to give them extra support – sometimes just giving the customer the confidence to do the work was all that was needed.
One example was when a customer, who didn't want her husband and his "questionable DIY skills" going anywhere near their leaking loo, said she was up for the challenge. Replacement washers, instructions and a link to guidance video was sent. A further virtual appointment for the following week was set up.
Well, on this occasion the customer didn't wait for that appointment, and went ahead and gave it a go. Then sent Ray the text below:
It's fair to say that not all repairs are easy and not all customers would be confident enough to do it. This had definitely proved to be a great service for the customer who was obviously happy with the outcome.
Other areas we are exploring opportunities to carry out virtual visits include our water efficiency team, they are looking at virtual or self-audits, reducing the need of a journey and empowering the customer to make changes and reduce their water usage.