Second National Infrastructure Assessment: Baseline Report   |   Call for Evidence

Baseline Report Annex D: Water and wastewater

Analysis of the country's water and wastewater infrastructure which informs the Baseline Report for the second National Infrastructure Assessment.

Tagged: Water & Floods

Sector overview

Water networks supply clean drinking water to properties. Clean water infrastructure consists of water abstraction sites, transfer pipes, distribution networks, pumps, water treatment sites and storage facilities for raw and treated water. Water supply is essential for society and the economy.

Wastewater services protect public health and the environment. Wastewater networks collect and transport surface water, sewage, or a mixture of both. Sewage is transported for treatment at sewage works. Wastewater infrastructure includes sewer pipes, pumps, storage tanks, treatment works and other assets that enable the operation of networks, as well as green infrastructure, such as sustainable drainage systems for surface water, which slow and control flows. This helps to avoid overwhelming systems and can reduce pollution entering water courses.

This annex focuses on public water supply which involves the largest water and wastewater infrastructure.

Water and wastewater infrastructure is capital intensive and has a long life. In 2019-20, the regulated capital value of the English water assets stood at £30 billion. For wastewater assets the value was £39 billion.1 Regulatory capital value represents the value of water and wastewater companies’ assets that is regulated by Ofwat.  

Water use

About a third of all water taken from the environment is used for public water supplies provided by water companies.2 This is equivalent to almost 14,600 million litres per day taken for public water supply out of a total of around 44,660 million litres.3 The remainder is used for a range of other purposes, including cooling power stations and irrigation. Out of the public supply needs, more than a quarter is used by non-households, amounting to approximately 4,110 million litres.4 In terms of domestic consumption, on average, a person in England consumes 142 litres of water per day5 compared to a European average of 128 litres per person per day.6 Roughly a third of water for public supply comes from groundwater.7 This is fresh water which has collected underground in spaces in soil, sand and rock. The remaining two thirds comes from surface water sources such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

Water and wastewater and the Commission’s remit

The Commission’s remit covers the supply of water and wastewater services to the public, and other sectors such as agriculture, energy and food processing. Responsibility for water and wastewater policy is devolved to the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission’s remit covers England only. However, some data presented in this annex will cover England and Wales jointly, as the same body provides economic regulation for both countries. Where this is the case, appropriate references will be made to clarify the data split.

Images from the Baseline Report

Status:  Completed

Second National Infrastructure Assessment: Baseline Report

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