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A drop of knowledge from Michelle: how buying water for your business has changed

As a Key Account Manager for Water Plus, I’m in contact with business customers on a daily basis. I’m confident that my customers know that the English water market is open to competition, what that means to businesses, charities and public sector organisations who can now can buy their water services in a similar way to how they purchase other utilities such as gas, electricity and telecoms.

We’re only a few months into the new open market so it’s understandable that although customers are aware the market is open, there are still some questions about what this actually means to business customers, so I have done my best to explain this below.

Pre market opening - how water used to be purchased 

You will see from the diagram on the left, prior to market opening, the local water company supplied businesses with clean water, removed wastewater and issued a bill which covered all costs associated with providing services. Customers paid the local water company directly.

If a business had sites in different areas of the country, then they would receive a bill from each of the individual companies that served their sites. Depending on the number of sites a business had and what location these sites were in the business could be receiving bills from over 20 different wholesalers.


Post market opening – how water is purchased nowwholesaler-2-(1).jpg

If you look at the diagram on the right, you’ll see that the landscape of the open market has changed.

The local water company, now known as the ‘wholesaler’, is still responsible for supplying clean water and taking away wastewater – it’s still not possible to choose a water wholesaler, your supply is dependant purely on where a business’s site is located.

In the open water market, water ‘retailers’ (like Water Plus) buy water and wastewater services from wholesalers. You now buy water services through a water retailer who provide services such as billing, payments and meter reading and customer service.

Some retailers will offer additional ‘value added services’ ranging from leak detection, AMR meter installation and advice on water management strategies. These services can be used in a number of ways, including helping a business to reduce their water consumption which can reduce their bills and in turn support their corporate responsibility plans.

At Water Plus we offer an extensive range of value added services, however not all retailers will provide these additional options. My advice to you is to really do your research, think about what’s important to you as a customer and align yourself to a retail partner who can provide what you need.

The open water market gives business customers the option to choose which retailer they buy from. If they have sites in different areas of the country, they can choose to buy through just one retailer. Water is still supplied by the local wholesaler but by working with just one retailer, businesses have the option to receive their bills from one supplier for all sites, giving one point of contact for all things water, saving time and money on administration.

My advice for the open market

Step 1: Make sure you understand what the change in market means and how this may affect your business.

Step 2: Understand your data and ensure its accuracy. How many sites do you have? What’s the consumption of each site? Where are your meters located? Doing this will help you to understand your entire business water needs and shape what you want out of either your existing retailer or future supplier.

Step 3: Understand your options. You now have a choice of retailer. Margins are tight which makes cost difference between retailers minimal. If you are asking people to quote, ensure you’re comparing like for like sites and service.

Step 4: Look into other methods of saving. Cost reduction can be made through water efficiency, early leak detection through AMR installation and contingency planning. Speak to your retailer, discuss your needs and find out what they can do to help you improve your water consumption and as a result reduce costs.

Step 5: Check you have the necessary governance in place. Make sure you have the procedures so if/when the time comes to consider switching retailers, you’re ready.
I hope this has given you some insight into what the change in the market actually means and how business customers can benefit from the change.

To find out more, myself and the Water Plus team will be at The Water Event, held at the NEC from the 12 – 14 September. We’d love to answer any question you may have. You’ll find us at the Water Café and at stand number 4C14 come over and say hello.

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