Water Act 2014 receives royal assent
The Water Act 2014 received royal assent on 14 May 2014, bringing important changes to water industry operation and management of water resources; increasing current environmental regulation requirements; introducing measures to stimulate a free market in the sector; and establishing the framework for the forthcoming residential flood reinsurance scheme (‘Flood Re’). While a number of the act’s provisions focus on increasing sectoral competition and responding to consumers’ needs — and so are likely to receive the most initial public interest — the practical and commercial implications should not be ignored by property owners, occupiers and developers with an interest in relevant land.
In the main, the act amends the Water Industry Act 1991 (WIA), but also affects other associated legislation. Adoption agreements under WIA are one element affected. Water and sewerage undertakers have previously been free to enter into agreements to adopt water mains and service pipes, or sewers, drains or sewage disposal works at a future date, provided they are constructed in accordance with the agreement — as per section 51A and section 104 of the WIA respectively. However, going forward, it will also be possible for the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) to order an undertaker to adopt relevant mains, pipes and infrastructure. Provided Ofwat is satisfied that (a) it is appropriate for the applicant to carry out the initial work rather than the undertaker themselves and (b) it is not possible for an adoption agreement to be reached between the parties in a reasonable time, it will issue an order for adoption in accordance with specified terms and conditions. This provides a potentially useful mechanism for landowners and developers, where previous adoption requests have been ignored or refused. However, the statutory language leaves it unclear whether this can also be applied to sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) and other less traditional infrastructure for foul water management…
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