Last edited 21 Jul 2021

Water Industry Act 1991

In England and Wales, water supply and wastewater services were privatised in 1989.

The Water Industry Act 1991 is ‘…an Act to consolidate enactments relating to the supply of water and the provision of sewerage services, with amendments to give effect to recommendations of the Law Commission’.

The Act is in three parts. Part I relates to water charging in England and Wales and is based on a Government consultation document, ‘Water Charging in England and Wales: A New Approach’, published in April 1998. Part II relates to the water industry in Scotland and Part III contains supplemental provisions.

The Act sets out the regulatory requirements, competition and consumer representation frameworks for the water industry in England and Wales.

This includes:

Local monopoly water companies have a duty under the Act to respond to requests for new connections for domestic purposes, but can charge for providing such connections.

The Act was amended by the Water Industry Act 1999, an Act ‘…to make further provision in relation to England and Wales as to charges in respect of the supply of water and the provision of sewerage services and to make provision in relation to Scotland for the establishment and functions of a Water Industry Commissioner for Scotland; and for connected purposes’.

The Water Industry Act 1999:

Water companies are not permitted to disconnect or restrict a domestic water supply if a customer owes them money. They can however take customers to court to recover money owed, and bailiffs may be permitted take goods to sell if the judgement is not settled.

The Water Act 2003 further amended the Act:

The Water Act 2014 further amended the Act and also introduced changes to other legislation. It was seen as a major development for companies operating within the industry and for commercial water customers. The aim of the 2014 Act was to reform the water industry to make it more innovative and responsive to customers and to increase the resilience of water supplies to natural hazards such as droughts and floods. It was intended to introduce greater competition into the market and bring benefits to businesses and the economy. It applies to England and Wales, with some provisions also applying in Scotland.

For more information see: Water Act 2014.

In Scotland, legislation is set out in the Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002.

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