Farmers urged to tap in to new opportunities in mains water service

NFU members are being urged to shop around for a water retailer that offers them the most attractive and suitable deal, instead of being tied to a regional monopoly supplier.

The Government changes  to mains waste water retail services – that came into force on 1 April – are designed to bring more competition to the market, in the hope of bringing better value for money and delivering benefits to the UK economy valued at £200 million.

The NFU has been working hard to ensure farm businesses will benefit from the changes that mean farmers can now buy their mains and waste water services from newly created retailers, who in turn have bought their supplies from a wholesaler.

A recent survey of NFU members found:

  • 80% of farmers use mains water for both non-household and household (business and domestic) purposes, and a further 11% use mains water for non-household purposes only
  • Less than half (46%) of farmers are aware of the forthcoming changes in the ‘Open water’ market for non-household premises
  • Over half (57%) of farmers describe the current level of service provided by their existing water company supplier as ‘good’ or ‘very good’
  • Over one-third (37%) of farmers consider that reducing the cost of mains water is a high priority for their business
  • Just under three-quarters (72%) of farmers are either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ supportive of retail competition for mains water services
  • Only 6% of farmers said they would be prepared to switch retailer for a saving of 1-2% in charges, with over one-third (40%) of farmers indicating that they would expect a cost saving of at least 11% to encourage them to change their water services retailer.

Even business customers who decide not to make a switch will be affected. This is because most of the public water companies are dividing their business structures between wholesale (pipes and infrastructure) and retail (billing).

NFU national water resources specialist Paul Hammett said: “It comes as no surprise that our members are interested in driving down costs. But the survey does provide really interesting revelations in the type of services they will be interested in.

“The NFU has been working closely with Defra, the water regulator Ofwat and the Consumer Council for Water to ensure that farm businesses will benefit from these changes that come into force from 1 April.

“The Open Water market offers some exciting opportunities for improved water services for our farmer and grower members. We also want to ensure that the switchover is as painless as possible.”

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