We could have done a better job holding water companies to account, admits former Ofwat boss

·2 min read
We could have done a better job holding water companies to account, admits former Ofwat boss - Chris J. Ratcliffe /Bloomberg
We could have done a better job holding water companies to account, admits former Ofwat boss - Chris J. Ratcliffe /Bloomberg

Ofwat could have done a better job holding water companies to account over leaks and other issues, a former member of the regulatory body's board has admitted.

Christine Farnish, who was part of Ofwat's leadership from 2014-20, told LBC that Ofwat should have forced the water companies to do a "tougher job" tackling leaks and providing a better service to the public.

"It’s very easy with hindsight to say more should’ve been done," she said.

"At the time Ofwat thought it was doing a lot and it’s never going to be perfect having a system of an essential monopoly public service being in the private sector with all those incentives bearing on it and trying to regulate it from afar when you haven’t got perfect information."

"The regulator's job isn’t an easy one. However, I’m sure a better job could've been done over the years of holding these companies to account and making them do a tougher job on what is essential - providing the public with clean water in an efficient way, not wasting it on things like leaks."

Her comments come as Thames Water announced it will bring in a hosepipe ban "in the coming weeks" that is expected to affect 15 million customers across London and the south-east.

Water companies are under increasing pressure to prevent leaks, with an estimated 3 billion litres of water lost on a daily basis to leaks. Thames Water suffers the most leaks in the country, losing an estimated 600 million litres per day alone.

Last year, the firm was also fined £4 million after it allowed raw sewage to leak into two Oxford streams for more than 30 hours, killing an estimated 3,000 fish in the process.