Affordability key for Cambridge Water


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View recent newsAffordability key for Cambridge Water

Cambridge Water is taking a proactive approach to ensure its water bills remain affordable in the foreseeable future.

In its Business Plan, published today, the company sets out its strategy for meeting the economic and environmental challenges it is likely to face between 2010 and 2015.

Stephen Kay, managing director, said: “At Cambridge Water we are proud of our 156-year record of providing a constant supply of safe, clean drinking water. Our household customers have the second lowest bills in England and Wales, while benefitting from the highest levels of customer service, as measured by our regulator Ofwat.

“All this is achieved against the backdrop of operating in one of the driest and fastest growing areas of the UK and demonstrates our ability to plan for the future, while maintaining affordable prices.

“This Business Plan sets out how we are going to maintain this level of achievement during the next five years (2010-2015) and beyond.”

He said that given the challenges of the current economic climate, producing the plan had been a balancing act. Initially the company considered investing £57.3m in schemes to maintain or improve on the quality of the water supply. However, following three sets of customer research, which identified key priorities and questioned how much people were willing to pay for their water in the current economic climate, this has been revised to £36.8m.

Mr Kay said the company had been able to make the savings by adopting a pragmatic approach to the work it planned to undertake between 2010 and 2015.

The following key activities will remain in place:

  • The company will invest £7.8m in five treatment plants to combat increasing levels of nitrates being recorded at customers’ taps. This issue is currently dealt with by blending water from higher nitrate sources with that drawn from sources with lower nitrate concentration, to ensure overall levels fall within those specified by Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI). However levels have now reached a stage where blending is no longer sufficient to comply with the nitrate standard for drinking water.
  • A further £20m will be spent on underground activity to renew and lay new watermains, and progress with the company’s special district metering programme which assists with the rapid detection of leaks
  • The company will also continue to make efficiency savings for the benefit of the environment. Specifically it will look to replace its chlorine gas treatment processes with ones that do not rely on chlorine, use technology to help reduce its carbon footprint and encourage its customers to use water wisely through using water efficiency devices like hippos and hogs, and continuing to meter customers on their request

To ensure the business plan remains affordable a number of initiatives have been deferred to 2015 and beyond, including plans to extend its North West Ring Main.

Mr Kay explained. “A slowing housing market means construction levels have dipped and in some cases even ceased on many of the new developments in and around Cambridge. As a consequence we are no longer required to connect as many new customers as originally predicted and therefore are able to defer extending our North West Ring Main in this five year period.”

Other measures which have been deferred include a study to identify the extent that lead pipes are used in the supply network. A long-term objective of the company is to replace all lead pipework and avoid using expensive chemicals to maintain the quality of its supply.

For customers, these savings means bills will only rise 7.3% above inflation to an average of £108.85 for a metered water bill and £145.00 for an unmetered water bill by 2015, as opposed to the 20% originally envisaged. The average household in England and Wales currently pays £145 for a metered water bill and £173 for an unmetered water bill.* Charging for waste water removal and treatment remains the responsibility of Anglian Water.

Mr Kay added: “We pride ourselves on listening – and reacting – to the views of our customers. While as a water company there are certain regulatory requirements we have to fulfil, our Business Plan very much takes into account what our customers would like to see in terms of providing high quality drinking water, looking after the environment and affordable billing. I am confident this plan strikes the right balance for the benefit of all.”

Cambridge Water is keen to receive customer feedback on its Business Plan. For more details visit


 *Ofwat report on average household bills 2009-10

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