Standards – why not??

By David Smoker, ACO and Chair of the Standards and Regulations Group.

With the upcoming implementation of Schedule 3 and the programme to remove CSO spills is there is a real risk that money will be wasted, and desired outcomes not realised if appropriate standards and practices are not in place and adhered to?

At our Standards and Regulations event in March 2023 there was general agreement among the participants that standards, whether BS/EN/ISO, WISs/IGNs, CESWI or WIMES, deliver great benefit:

  • standardized practices enhance operational efficiency, reducing costs.
  • adherence to standards fosters regulatory compliance, mitigating legal risks and potential fines.
  • standardized processes improve the reliability of water-related infrastructure, reducing downtime and enhancing overall business resilience.
  • a commitment to water industry standards can enhance a company’s reputation.
  • standards ensure knowledge retention, particularly important with the ageing demographic in the industry.

However, there was also a feeling that the water companies did not fully recognise the benefits of creating standards and ensuring they were adhered to across all strata of their business; funding for standards work has been cut and there are examples where the ‘cheaper’ product has been bought irrespective of not meeting the standard specified.

Without standardised processes, regulatory compliance becomes more challenging, exposing companies to legal issues and potential fines. Inconsistent practices may lead to unreliable water and sewer infrastructure, causing disruptions and potentially compromising the stability of systems.

The absence of industry standards can hinder innovation and collaboration within the water sector, impeding progress in developing sustainable and efficient solutions. Overall, not using standards in the water industry can lead to increased risks, higher costs, and a lack of cohesion in addressing crucial water-related challenges.

Other utility sectors [gas and electric] seem to treat standards in a more structured manner. Can the water industry move forward in the same way? Can we create, and maintain, a water industry technical forum to mandate standards and guidance and to keep on top of updates and relevance?

We think we have some understanding of the barriers and the complexity of this, particularly funding issues, but how do the water companies and their regulators perceive this?

To explore this and collaboratively come up with a way forward for the sector as a whole we will be holding a further event in March this year where we will be inviting key people in the water companies, the Environment Agency,  Ofwat and other organisations to work collaboratively with our supply chain to develop value messages for standards, plan a way forward with actions to make standards ‘the way we do things’. Wish us luck!