There are 24 water and wastewater suppliers operating in England and Wales. 11 of these deal with both water and sewerage whilst 13 supply just water.
All water supplied is regulated by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) for England and Wales. Each water company is tested regularly to ensure their water is safe to drink.
Likewise, any pipe repair to the public water network must be done with WRAS approved products and materials which are proven to not contaminate or pose a danger to supplies.
Each water company charges a different rate for their services, set as part of a five-yearly price review by the regulator Ofwat.
These prices take into account the cost of supplying water, treating wastewater and other essential operations like the maintenance and repair of networks and investments in infrastructure.
Unlike with electricity or gas suppliers, customers do not have the option to switch to find a better deal. The only factor which determines your water company and therefore how much you pay is where you live.
Here are the water and wastewater suppliers in England and Wales – and some information which you may not have known about them.
Combined water and wastewater suppliers in England and Wales
The following 11 companies both supply households with water and take away and treat wastewater. Customers therefore are billed by just a single supplier, rather than having their bills split over two companies.
Anglian Water cover the largest geographical area of any water suppliers in England and Wales. They serve six million customers in 2.6 million properties covering East Anglia and the East Midlands from the River Humber to the River Thames.
Over one billion litres of water passes through Anglian’s 36,000 kilometres of pipework. They operate in some of the most challenging conditions in the United Kingdom with their region being the driest in the country, receiving on average only 600mm of rain per year.
To combat this, Anglian have begun looking at ways to move water around their region from the wetter areas to the driest.
A £350 million water pipeline nearly 500 kilometres long is to be constructed for the transfer of surplus water in North Lincolnshire to areas of Essex which are threatened by dwindling supplies and droughts.
Dwr Cymru Welsh Water
No prizes for guessing where Dwr Cymru Welsh Water operate – yes, it is Wales, as well as some parts of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire along the border with England.
Dwr Cyrum have 26,800 kilometres of water pipes and 17,600 kilometres of sewers on their network. They are considered one of the most forward-thinking water suppliers in England and Wales for their willingness to find solutions to leaks and problems on their network.
A good example of this is the repair of a leaking pipe bridge crossing the Rhondda River in Porth, completed in three days and for less than £15,000 compared to a month-long replacement upwards of £250,000.
Northumbrian Water supply almost two million properties in north east England with water and sewerage services.
95 percent of their water comes from rivers and reservoirs, including Kielder Water which is the biggest reservoir in the United Kingdom by volume.
Water is supplied via 16,789 kilometres of pipework and wastewater taken away through 15,484 kilometres of sewer. Northumbrian are the parent company of Essex & Suffolk Water following a April 2000 merger.
Severn Trent Water
Based on annual turnover, Severn Trent are the fourth largest privately owned water company in the world. They provide water and sewerage services to over seven million people across an area stretching from the Humber Estuary in the north to the Bristol Channel in the south, and from inside Wales to east Lincolnshire.
Severn Trent operate 45,674 kilometres of water pipes and 53,325 kilometres of sewer. 65 percent of their water supplies come from the major rivers in their region with 35 percent from boreholes and aquifers.
Southern Water cover the populous regions of Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. 71 percent of their water supplies are derived from boreholes and aquifers, a very high percentage compared to other companies in England and Wales.
Much of Southern’s region has very hard water thanks to its geology of chalk and limestone. Southern operate 13,394 kilometres of water pipes and have 390 wastewater treatment works.
South West Water
Covering Cornwall, Devon and parts of Dorset and Somerset, South West Water has the highest ratio of coastline to land of any water suppliers in England and Wales.
The UK government contributes £50 towards every South West customer’s water bill. This is in recognition of households paying more than any other region as a percentage of their billing funds the £2 billion Clean Sweep programme for improving the quality of beaches in Cornwall and Devon.
Seeing as the whole population benefits from the best beaches in the country being clean, safe and well-maintained, the government thought it not fair to burden the three percent of the population supplied by South West with the full cost.
South West provides water to 97 percent of the region but collects wastewater from only 88 percent. This is because of how rural their area is, with many customers collecting and processing sewage themselves through methods such as septic tanks.
Thames Water supplies water and sewerage services to London and parts of southern England. Thames is part of RWE, a worldwide clean water and sanitation company based in Germany connected to more than 70 million customers in England, Germany, central Europe and the United States.
76 percent of Thames’ supplies come from rivers and reservoirs and they operate 31,300 kilometres of water mains.
Customers’ bills are currently contributing towards the £4.3 billion cost of the Thames Tideway Tunnel, which is to capture store and convey almost all the raw sewage and rainwater that currently overflowis into the Thames estuary.
A FTSE 100 company, United Utilities is the UK’s largest operator of water systems, delivering 2,000 million litres of water per day to seven million people living in 2.9 million households in north west England.
United Utilities have 40,000 kilometres of pipe on their network and 39,000 kilometres of sewer. They treat 2,200 million litres of wastewater every day and are also involved in electrical distribution.
Wessex Water provide water and sewerage services to 10,000 square kilometres of England covering Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Bristol.
80 percent of its supplies come from groundwater sources with 20 percent from rivers and its 12 surface reservoirs. Wessex operate 11,000 kilometres of water mains and 12,000 kilometres of sewer.
The people of Yorkshire produce a lot of wastewater! Yorkshire Water process a billion litres of wastewater and sewage every day which goes onto be treated across 612 treatment plants.
Yorkshire have 30,000 kilometres of water network with 78 percent of their supplies coming from rivers across the region. They serve 1.7 million households.
Hafren Dyfrdwy are a sister company of Severn Trent. They provide water only in Wrexham and parts of Denbighshire and Flintshire and both water and wastewater in northern Powys.
Previously known as Dee Valley Water, the company served north east Wales and parts of north west England until its purchase by Severn Trent in 2017.
In 2018, Dee Valley’s Welsh region was renamed Hafren Dyfrdwy after the Rivers Severn and Dee. The remainder of Dee Valley lying in England became a part of Severn Trent.
Water only suppliers in England and Wales
13 companies in England and Wales are suppliers of water only. In amongst them are private not-for-profit organisations set up in the 1800s for community benefit and still existing today, along with sister companies to some of the big water and sewerage suppliers.
The largest water only supplier in England and Wales, Affinity Water serve 3.5 million customers. Their region covers north west London, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, and the Folkestone and Dover areas of Kent.
Affinity were formed in 2012 after three separately branded companies known as Veolia Water Central, Veolia Water East, Veolia Water Southeast were brought together under one banner following the purchase of Veolia Water for £1.2 billion by Rift Acquisitions.
Albion Water were licensed by Ofwat in 1999, becoming the first new entrant to compete against the monopoly water companies in England.
They work with housing developers to supply water on new build estates. Included in the Albion supply network are Upper Rissington, a village of around 370 existing and 368 new build homes constructed on a former RAF base in Gloucestershire; and Knowle Village, consisting of 750 new homes situated on the site of an old NHS hospital.
Covering an area of 1000 square kilometeres from Beaulieu in the New Forest to Poole and up to Salisbury, Bournemouth Water meet the water needs of approximately 500,000 people.
The company was founded in 1994 following the merger of Bournemouth Water and West Hampshire Water. In 2015, it was bought for £100.3 million by Pennon Group LTD, the owners of South West Water.
Established by an Act of Parliament in 1846, Bristol Water now provide over one million people in Bristol and the surrounding areas with water via 6,382 kilometres of pipes.
The River Severn meets around 50 percent of their supply with the rest largely made up of reservoirs, including the three Barrow Gurney Reservoirs built shortly after the formation of the company more than 150 years ago and further rescources at Blagdon, Cheddar and Chew Stoke.
Cambridge Water are responsible for supplying water to 125,000 properties covering area of 730 square kilometres in south Cambridgeshire. They face the same challenges as neighbours Anglian, operating in a region where rainfall is only half the national average.
There are additional problems for the company to overome along with the scarcity of rain. Cambridge is one of the most densely populated areas of the UK and its population is increasing at a faster rate than most of the country, straining already scarce resources.
Cholderton & District Water
Operating in Wiltshire, Cholderton & District Water supply 2,100 people in the villages of Cholderton and Shipton Bellinger.
All of their water comes from boreholes and aquifers. Their network consists of 44 kilometres of water mains, a service reservoir and a treatment works.
Essex & Suffolk Water
Essex & Suffolk Water are a part of Northumbrian Water following a marger in 2000. They supply water to 1.7 million people via a pipe network of 8,441 kilometres.
95 percent of Essex & Suffolk’s supply comes from rivers and reservoirs and the other 5 percent from boreholes and aquifers.
Almost as famous as the people of Harletpool once hanging a monkey because they believed him to be a French spy is that they have their own water supplier, Hartlepool Water.
Originally formed as the Hartlepool Gas and Water Company in 1846, it was re-incorporated into Hartlepool Water in 1995 before being brought by Anglian Water in 1997.
Portsmouth Water derives its water from two groups of springs, one river and 18 boreholes. It provides 175 litres per day via 3,222 kilometres of pipework with storage capacity set to be increased through the planned construction of the Havant Thicket reservoir.
Although the name would suggest that Portsmouth supplies water just to the city, the company actually cover a 868 square kilometre area incorporating wider Hampshire and parts of West Sussex.
South East Water
Kent, Hampshire, Berkshire, Sussex and Surrey are all areas supplied by South East Water, who are owned by banking and financial services providers the Macquarie Group.
South East gets 72 percent of its supplies from boreholes and aquifers and the other 28% from rivers and reservoirs. Their network covers 9,665 kilometres of water mains.
South Staffordshire Water
Nearly 1.25 million people have their water supplied by South Staffordshire. Formed in 1853 to supply water to the Black Country, the company now covers an area running from Ashbourne in the north to Halesowen in the south, and from Burton-on-Trent in the east to Kinver in the west.
South Staffordshire draw the vast majority of their water from two major reservoirs – Chelmarsh and Blithfield, the latter of which was opened by the Queen Mother in 1953.
Sutton & East Surrey Water
Sutton & East Surrey Water covers a largely rural area of 834 kilometres between Gatwick Airport, Croydon, Dorking and Edenbridge.
They are connected to 252,000 domestic households and 18,000 commercial properties. 85 percent of their supplies come from groundwater and the other 15 percent is drawn from a reservoir at Bough Beech.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the suppliers in England and Wales, Youlgrave Waterworks are a not-for-profit organisation who have been supplying the village of Youlgrave in the Peak District with water since 1892.
What started out as a single conduit head outlet for the village is now a company connected to around 500 homes and businesses, run by 12 volunteer directors for the benefit of the community.
Most current needs are met entirely by spring water, though in times of high demand a well at the former Mawstone Mine is also used.
The water passes through a small treatment works where it is chlorinated and pH balanced. Customers are charged a fixed fee for connection to the Youlgrave network, rather than being billed on usage.
Because Youlgrave is a private water company in an industry dominated by statutory undertakers , it is not regulated by Ofwat but instead by the environmental health arm of the local authority.