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We need to fix water regulation - now

Letter to The Times

Chichester Harbour, one of the largest natural harbours in the U.K. and of immense ecological importance, has been and is being desperately affected by water quality issues. The Thames Water predicament, to be followed in due course by other water companies, is a direct result of a complete failure by Government over the last decade to reform water regulation. Further the Government has allowed these companies to be acquired on a highly indebted basis by private equity and infrastructure funds with the debt needing to paid down with the companies’ cash flow. In addition regulation administered by OFWAT has prevented  investment, meaning we probably are 15 to 20 years behind on infrastructure. Yet, despite of warnings from us and other similar bodies, there is still no sign of any plan from the Government to reform regulation or require a change in the capital structure of these companies. They are confining themselves to criticising and fining companies, with political soundbites. As we have seen from Thames Water,  private investment is not going to be available without substantial price rises for the customer and, realistically, heavy government support and investment. The Government must come up with a credible plan. If not, the threat to public health and water supply is obvious.

John Nelson, Chairman, Chichester Harbour Trust

Footnote; the national sewage data released by the BBC on 27 March 2024 showed that the combined input of the three waste water treatment works into Chichester Harbour during 2023 was 330 spill events/6,015 hours/250 days. The data for Budds Farm in Langstone, which also affects Chichester Harbour did not seem to be available.

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