Big question

BQ9 - How do we ensure that the regulatory framework incentivises efficient delivery of the right outcomes for customers and the environment?



We are currently working on the approach to answering this Big Question, and more information will be given here soon.

The areas that this Big Question covers includes:

  • Evaluate if we are contributing harmful plastics to the water cycle
  • Establish their source and effective control measures to remove them

Once we understand where the gaps are, we will produce a route map – this is a plan as to how we will answer our Big Question.

The route map will have a number of key elements. At the top will be our Big Question and then we will look to see what Outcomes we need from the research programme -if we can achieve all these outcomes we can answer the Big Question. This is the stage we are currently at for this Big Question.

The next stage will be to think about the key benefits we want the research projects to deliver to meet these outcomes.

Following this, we will plan the research projects to help deliver the benefits.

UKWIR – the UK and Irish water industry’s research body – has commissioned the first study of its kind in the UK to develop a robust approach to sampling and detection of microplastic particles in the treated water cycle. This included accurately measuring the presence of microplastic particles in potable (drinking) water, treated wastewater and in the solid residues (sludge) produced by both the water and wastewater treatment processes. Please click here to view more information.

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Enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion in the UK Water Industry.

Project Status - Project Completed

Category - Programme Management

Lack of diversity in the UK & Irish water industry workforce means that we are missing out on the talent from multiple groups who are under-represented. UK & Irish water industry workforce currently does not reflect the wider society that we serve. As companies who serve the communities around is it is vital that we have representation from within of all the various groups that we serve. This will enable us to understand the challenges and issues that our customers face, as well as reasons why they might not be receptive to our messaging (e.g. reducing water use)

OFWAT expect all of the UK Water companies to be delviering on this; a quote taken from the OFWAT 'Time to Act Together' strategy says "We want to see water companies transform their ability to serve customers and respond to the full diversity of customer needs, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances." We can only do this if we have an embedded understanding of what those customers' needs are, and the best way to achieve that is through having a diverse workforce with a wide variety of lived experiences.

Limited diversity in thought means that we are missing out on innovation opportunities. There is plenty of research available that proves that a diverse workforce brings many business benefits, and is in the interests of all. Statistics gathered by McKinsey confirm that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21% more likely to outperform on profitability, and companies in the top-quartile for ethnic/cultural diversity on executive teams were 33% more likely to have industry-leading profitability. Companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability. Further details can be found in the 2018 McKinsey report "Delivery through Diversity" which is available free of charge.

One of the pillars of the UK Water 2050 Strategy is 'Enabling Diverse Future-Ready People and Partnership Working' explained as "We need to ensure we have the culture, skills and partnerships to innovate to prepare for future change."

One of the specific short-term goals towards 2025 is "Training, upskilling, resource sharing, and employment development programmes support the creation of a diverse, representative and future ready workforce, which reflects are open to innovation and able to adapt to future challenges.

For example:
• through development programmes to ensure that diversity of thought, innovation skills and wider supporting skills, such as collaboration, digital, product develop and customer research, are key water sector skill-sets

The sector has a shared understanding of where future skills gaps could emerge and sector wide plans and training programmes to address any gaps identified"


PFAS and wastewater - prevalence, reduction options and costs.

Project Status - Project Completed

The release of the film 'Dark Waters' has only served to highlight a wider concern than the known issue of widespread non-compliance with the EQS for PFOS. There is emerging concern regarding the wider family of PFAS and their toxicity both to humans and in the environment. The EA is currently taking a pragmatic view and effectively relaxing the EQS for PFOS in the light of monitoring data (aqueous and biota) but this leaves unanswered issues of what to regulate and why - and then how the industry should respond, and if compliance is cost-effective.


Scoping Study - Understanding Asset Risk (BQ8).

Project Status - Project Completed