Wednesday saw me in Bath for the Wessex Water panel - I sit on this on behalf of Stroud District Council and we meet three or four times a year.
Photo: Wessex HQ at Claverton Down
It has been a fascinating and interesting group and I have learnt lots about many aspects of water over the last couple of years. As this blog shows I have asked many and varied questions but I have wondered about the level of scrutiny by councillors from around the Wessex Water area. Are we really engaging? What are we taking back to our own councils? Anyway I was pleased to hear that Wessex are looking at ways to improve and change these panels. Having said all that Wessex are ahead of competitors in engaging in this way....if only we could talk to Severn Trent rather than the crazy system where I have to send at least 3 emails and make 2 phone calls before I get a response....
Anyway topics discussed this time include how the company (like all water companies - see old blog post on STW) will have to take on responsibilities for the private sewers in a year's time - this will be no mean feet - it will double the water companies sewer assets and could lead to an estimated 7 or 8 times increase in sewer problems. This is because private sewers are often less well maintained and smaller - so more fat blockages. This could lead to an eyewatering 20% increase in water bills in future years. I do welcome the transfer as it will lead to alot less disputes like we have had in the Ruscombe valley - and hopefully clear responsibilities about who should maintain - but the legislation leaves a few unanswered questions....plus it is clear insurance companies and some others are dragging feet in the hope they can leave responsibilities for problems to the water companies...
Well that was private sewers well private water supply was another issue - Environmental Health will have new powers and responsibilities to ensure water quality - in Wessex this means about 8,000 supplies. This will also impact on Councils and increase their responsibilities just at a time when they are being squeezed. I understand some charges will go to householders - and risk assessments will be needed - for example would pesticide testing be necessary in some cases?
Reports from Wessex include an update on their customer services - many organisations could learn from them - I did ask specifically about their bill improvements and easy read versions of literature - in particular whether they could do versions for people with learning disabilities - they noted they would be happy to talk and already produce easy reads.
Another issue discussed was the new Surface Water Management Plans - I do note concerns with the Governments cut of £170m from flood defences. As to water supplies - reservoirs are looking good, we also heard about their innovations team which looks at stuff like hydro power, algae control, analytical equipment improvements and lots more. Hey so much more but I'll stop there - need coffee!