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Research to inform a full Impact Assessment on the proposal to transfer private water service pipes to water companies - WT1527

Private owners are generally currently responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of water service pipes. This has led to a variety of problems including severe under-maintenance of these assets and increased risk for drinking water quality from lead pipes. It is estimated that 23%, some 770 mega litres per day of total leakage comes from these private supply pipes. Water and Sewerage Companies (WaSCs) have various Codes of Practice setting out how they address any leakage from household supply pipes and may in some situations offer subsidised or free repairs.

Water supply impacts to customers include burst pipes, blockages, pressure losses, leakage and water quality (discolouration and lead). Customers are currently responsible for funding any repair work which may involve significant lump sum costs at the time of an incident, or the cost of insuring against incidents, though in some cases Water Companies voluntarily provide assistance and repairs. Although helpful at the time of an incident, varying Water Company practice adds to confusion on the part of customers as to their responsibilities. Furthermore, one significant health risk that remains is compliance with the drinking water standard of 10ug/l for lead at the tap.
To inform the development of a full Impact Assessment for the proposal to include an amendment in the Water Bill that will enable the transfer of private water service pipes to water company ownership.

The objective of the research is too fully understand the monetary and qualitative impacts of transferring private service pipes. The full draft project specification is attached. The expected outputs for the report are listed below:
•Understand the extent of private service pipe stock
Impact on:
• insurance companies who currently provide products to householders to cover risks to supply pipes,
• Water Companies
• Customer bills/low income families
• New developers
• Plumbing services
• Impact on other bodies - local authorities, housing associations, other property owners such as government, NGOs, and institutions, regulators e.g. Ofwat, Environment Agency, Drinking Water Inspectorate and consumer bodies e.g. CC Water; and Government.
• Retail services
• Human rights - given the interference with property rights (pipe ownership) and the implications for the existing works/entry powers
• water quality
• water resources
Alternative options to adoption:
• Vountary Code of Practice - Ofwat and WaSCs to develop a voluntary code of practice to compliment their current private supply pipe maintenance and repair policies.
• Stringent obligations on customers to increase the quality of their private water supplies - Customers would be required to take greater responsibility for ensuring their service pipes are maintained to standard.
• Do nothing option
• Alternative options to adoption

Other Implications/benefits:
• Social benefits
• Customer and business perceptions

Project expectations:
• We would anticipate four weeks from the date the contract was signed to complete this work.
• We would expect to meet as early as possible with the consultants to discuss in further detail the expectations from the project. Weekly progress updates and at minimum at least two further meetings or telecoms, the final meeting to discuss the final draft report.
• All information gathered to be source referenced.
• Information as a result of the public consultation will be considered and included in the final report where relevant.
Project Documents
• TRP - Technical Report : WT1527-Private Water Supply Pipes Ownership   (1378k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2013

To: 2013

Cost: £37,025
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Atkins Consultants Ltd
Better Regulation              
Water Supply