Customers’ experiences of water supply interruptions following the ‘Beast from the East’ in March 2018

We have published new research offering an insight into the experiences of consumers who lost their water supply in the wake of March’s severe cold weather.

The Water Watchdog asked more than 1000 household and 260 non-household consumers supplied by seven of the worst-affected companies [Affinity Water, Dŵr Cymru, Severn Trent, South East Water, Southern Water, South West Water and Thames Water] about their experiences, and also spoke in more depth to focus groups of consumers that were impacted.

These findings have been published to coincide with Ofwat’s review of how the industry prepared for and handled the ‘Beast from the East’.

The key findings include:

  • Communication by companies to their consumers was poor. Two out of five affected consumers didn’t hear from their water company about the interruptions. There was an over-reliance on social media, and people found ‘word of mouth’ by families and friends the best way to find out information.
  • The provision of alternative, emergency water was inadequate. Seven out of ten consumers did not receive an alternative water supply during their interruption.
  • Consumers in vulnerable circumstances had not been properly identified and catered for. The vast majority (93%) of those identifying themselves as vulnerable felt they did not receive the support they needed.
  • Businesses suffered all round from poor communication from their wholesale water company; inadequate emergency water and inadequate compensation that didn’t cover their losses.

We will use the recommendations set out in the report to work with the industry to encourage improvements to the planning and preparations needed to ensure consumers are not left ‘high and dry’ again during a major incident.

For more information on this report contact Senior Policy Manager, Jenny Suggate Jennifer.suggate@ccwater.org.uk.