Water companies in England and Wales are proposing bill increases of £156 a year by 2030 to fund critical upgrades and reduce sewage discharges.
According to the water firms, the increase in water bills would support infrastructure spending, nearly doubling it to £96 billion, with the aim of securing the country's water supply in the long term.
The latest proposals come at a time when the public is expressing increasing concern about the amount of sewage being discharged into rivers and seas, along with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Water industry regulator Ofwat has been tasked with reviewing and potentially approving these investment plans, which the water companies describe as "record-breaking."
Under these proposals, bill increases would occur gradually, starting with an average rise of £84 in 2025 and gradually escalating to an extra £156 by 2030. These figures are in current prices and will be affected by inflation.
Critics of the plan argue that customers should not bear the financial burden, asserting that water companies have not adequately invested since privatization, with profits benefiting shareholders instead.
The water industry contends that standards have significantly improved over the years, with over £200 billion invested in water infrastructure. They argue that more investment is urgently required.
Water UK, representing water companies, states that these investments will lead to the most ambitious modernization of sewers since the Victorian era.
By 2030, it is expected to reduce leaks by a quarter compared to 2020 and cut sewage spills into waterways by over 140,000 per year.
Ofwat pledges to "forensically scrutinize" the industry's plans and hold public meetings in October and November to gather customer input.
Environment Secretary Therese Coffey broadly supports the investment plans but emphasizes that customers should not bear the cost of poor performance. Last week, the regulator ordered water companies to repay £114 million to customers due to missed targets.
The regulator will closely examine the water companies' investment plans, and a final decision on pricing will be announced in December. The industry defends its investment record, emphasizing the need for increased infrastructure spending.
Water UK anticipates that these proposals will lead to the creation of 30,000 new jobs and 4,000 apprenticeships, representing a 50% increase in the workforce.
The industry underscores the importance of these investments in securing a high-quality water supply for a growing population and reducing the use of storm overflows.
Ofwat pledges to reward companies that enhance performance and impose financial penalties on those that fail to deliver.
Customers and stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide input and feedback on the proposed plans over the coming months.
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