Paying for reliable discharges

Should downstream abstractors pay water companies to ensure the continuation of some or all of an upstream discharge? If so, how feasible might this be?

Why the contribution is important

As explained, there may be a number of reasons why discharges may change in the future including water quality standards and water scarcity. As well as whether it is fair that downstream abstractors should pay, we would like views on how charging could be practically organised to make a difference to water company decisions.

by abstractionreform on September 12, 2014 at 04:56PM

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  • Posted by psmith September 28, 2014 at 19:58

    Neither fair nor feasible - the money available from the largest class of abstractors, medium-sized farms, is insignificant by water company standards. If a major discharge is to cease there must be good reasons for it, approved or caused by regulation and therefore funded by water company customers.

    If the downstream abstractor were a water company, reliability of public water supply would be taken into account and would override business opportunities.
  • Posted by JLNeedle September 29, 2014 at 16:36

    Where abstractors rely on upstream discharges that have been ongoing consistently for some time they should not have to pay for those discharges to continue. It is very hard to see how a system for setting up such payments could be cost-effectively set up and administered even if it were a reasonable practice to get into.
  • Posted by EnergyUK October 06, 2014 at 15:23

    It would be inequitable if downstream water users were to be required to pay Water Companies (other than indirectly via Government through the water resource allocation mechanism if Government were to find it convenient to pay for Water Companies’ discharges they receive on behalf of society/environment.)

    The premise of the question is that Water Companies may freely vary sewage treatment works discharges without regard to the needs of other water users and without economic penalty. We contend that position is inequitable. We do not believe that Water Companies should be regarded as ‘owning’ or ‘having exclusive rights’ over the discharges from sewage treatment works. The way in which Water Companies manage changes in sewage treatment works discharges should be subject to stakeholder and regulatory oversight. We have suggested some possibilities for this in our response to Question 3 (How could Water Companies best take account of the impacts of changing discharges on downstream abstractors?).
    However, we note that in the framework discussed in our response to Question 3 (- How could Water Companies best take account of the impacts of changing discharges on downstream abstractors?), where a Water Company is meeting its minimum return obligations reach by reach and has additional discharge which it can choose to route to different locations, or alternatively route to storage, a commercial agreement with a third party would seem an appropriate mechanism to contribute to decision-making within this ‘flexible tranche’ promoting economic efficiency.
  • Posted by YW October 08, 2014 at 15:43

    Water companies have a duty to operate efficiently and protect the environment. Entering into a commercial agreement to maintain a discharge could lead to a conflict of interests for the water company and no guaranteed benefit to downstream abstractors. Water companies would need to reserve the right to relocate a discharge if it was required to meet water quality or environmental legislation. There is no guarantee the water will be available to all paying downstream abstractors; other (possibly non-paying) abstractors may take the water before it reaches the furthest downstream abstractor; there may also be disputes during dry weather when flows are too low to abstract even with the discharge maintained.
  • Posted by DCWW October 10, 2014 at 10:31

    Wastewater discharge permits are permissions to discharge, they are not a requirement to discharge. Wastewater flows can vary or cease beyond the control of the discharger (changes in population, ceased industrial discharges etc). Wastewater discharges may also be rationalized, moved and combined to bring about efficiency and/or as the only way to meet water quality needs within a waterbody.
  • Posted by PeelUtilities October 10, 2014 at 16:17

    The concept of paying water companies for continuous discharge is both impractical and unfair as set out below:

    - Paying for a discharge would suggest that the flows would be guaranteed, this in turn would require water companies to have a minimum discharge volume from their works.
    -If payments are made to guarantee flow, this would then suggest that abstraction volumes were in turn guaranteed.
    -Who would administer the scheme and how would this be paid for?
    -Would the new revenue from these discharges be regulated under the Ofwat price review process?
    -How would the money flow with no direct contract between water Co. and abstractor?

    -Would other dry weather discharges also be paid for their support of flows? i.e. Large industry
    -Water companies pay no punitive ammount for discharging during periods of high flow nor do they pay for their ongoing detriment to waterways so why should they be rewarded during low flows?
    -By similar logic, should large scale abstractors be paid during flood?
    -If the water companies weren't collecting and concentrating these flows via their abstraction and distribution activities would most of this water not be in the waterways anyway?

    Overall this idea doesn't seem to generate outcomes which will offer a real world, workable, or equitable arrangement.
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