The provision of water services to a development is a key consideration for any housebuilder. PHPD asked Luke de Vial, Managing Director of Albion Water, about the market and some key challenges.
Q In April this year the market for the provision of water solutions to new developments was opened up, allowing for more competition. What impact will these changes have on housebuilders and developers?
From 1 April 2018 more water companies’ developer service charges must be fixed and published, rather than provided on application, enabling developers to estimate their charges for the provision of water and wastewater infrastructure more easily.
The changes to the charging regime should also make it easier for alternative providers, such as self-lay providers and New Appointees’ (NAVs) to compete more effectively.
The services and charges affected include new water and wastewater connections, lateral drains, new water mains and sewers, traffic management, income offsets, asset payments and infrastructure charges.
These changes were made in response to new rules published by the water industry economic regulator, Ofwat, and affect all English water and wastewater companies.
We have provided regulated water services for almost 20 years, establishing an exemplary record with the industry’s regulators. We are at the forefront of providing newly built communities with sustainable solutions, including centralised dual water supplies to domestic properties.
We can provide a supply of drinking water and a separate supply of high quality green water, recycled and treated on-site, for non-drinking use. Sustainability is at the heart of our organisation. We recognise that we must:
- Consider our social, environmental and economic impact
- Consider the views of stakeholders and communicate with them
- Continually improve our service delivery
- Comply with all relevant legislative requirements
These goals are supported by a suite of policies and procedures that we regularly review and update.
Offsetting the demand for potable water using innovative approaches, supported by research and development, is a central plank of our commitment to the principles of sustainability, principles which are upheld by our majority partner, Wessex Water.
Q Which water solutions does Albion offer housebuilders?
We know how challenging the planning and building of new developments can be. We aim to ease the process and provide cost-effective solutions that best suit site needs and serve the communities created.
We provide water and wastewater services that are not only competitively priced but are environmentally focused and can enhance developments, making them attractive places to live and work.
With our proven track record of working with some of the UK’s largest developers and housebuilders, we have experience in providing solutions quickly and efficiently whilst tackling issues that monopoly water companies may not be able to address.
By acting as the key facilitator in the design, construction, operation and ultimately ownership of the water infrastructure assets we can provide the following services:
- Potable water distribution network design and construction or adoption
- Foul drainage network adoption
- Surface water drainage network adoption
- Sustainable drainage system adoption
- Water recycling centre design and construction
- Green water production centre design and construction
- Green water distribution network design and construction or adoption
Yes. As well as drinking water, we provide recycled water supplies to new developments.
Sometimes known as reclaimed, recycled or non-potable water, green water is water that is not suitable for drinking, brushing your teeth or bathing but, it is treated for uses such as toilet flushing and garden irrigation.
The concept of capturing rainwater and storing for later use is well documented from pre-Roman times. Green water can be produced from either captured rain water or high quality recovered wastewater or a mixture of both.
This approach has already been widely adopted in several countries including Australia and the United States and was pioneered in the UK by Albion Water over a decade ago.
The climate is changing and weather patterns are forecast to alter. Winters are forecast to get wetter, with summers likely to get drier. We therefore need to invest in infrastructure which improves the resilience of our water supplies. The use of a green water system reduces the amount of water needed to be abstracted from the environment and therefore reduces the demand for drinking water from the ‘traditional’ water supply system.
Green water is cheaper than drinking water, meaning that customers also save money on their annual bills.
Q How does Albion Water assist housebuilders in meeting planning requirements and obligations?
When we take on a new development we apply to Ofwat to replace the incumbent water and sewerage companies for water supply and foul and surface water drainage under the Water Industry Act 1991 New Appointment and Variation (NAV) process.
We apply to the Environment Agency to develop on-site water recycling facilities, which are designed to discharge to the local water course in compliance with an environmental permit, should this option be deemed technically feasible, sustainable and commercially advantageous.
Similarly, we design, build and operate green water production facilities. These systems are designed to help deliver the agreed project water efficiency target and enable the development to achieve its water and wastewater sustainability objectives.
We not only provide the developer with a single point of contact for all water-related issues but enable them to develop cost effective, efficient and innovative solutions which meet the specified planning criteria.
We frequently get involved with early stage developments and contribute as a statutory undertaker to the designers’ flood risk assessments and integrated water management strategies.
We are uniquely placed to challenge both the incumbent water company and regulator on policy and regulation to deliver innovative value management opportunities.
Q Which residential developments has the company been involved with recently? What solutions were used?
We pioneered an innovative solution for wastewater services at Knowle Village (near Fareham in Hampshire) which comprises 750 new homes situated on the site of a former NHS hospital.
Working in partnership with the developer Berkeley Homes, water industry regulators and local residents, we secured an inset appointment to provide wastewater services to the village. The services we provided included: Foul drainage network adoption, Surface water drainage network adoption, Sustainable drainage system adoption, and Wastewater treatment works adoption.
Countryside Homes approached us to provide the water and wastewater services at Oaklands Hamlet, a brownfield site near Chigwell in Essex. Less than 40 minutes from the City, Oaklands Hamlet offers views towards Canary Wharf in a countryside setting. The services we provided included: Potable water distribution network design and construction, Foul drainage network adoption, Surface water drainage network adoption, Water recycling centre design and construction, Green water production centre design and construction, and Green water distribution network design and construction.