Bringing the UK’s wastewater infrastructure to a standard that’s acceptable — rivers and seas not adversely affected, is the work of at least a decade of improvements with a high price tag.

Based upon the findings of the government commissioned Storm Overflows Evidence Project, that investment can reasonably be assumed to be in the region of £50 to £150 billion.

A middle figure — £100 billion is the equivalent of £3,840 per household.

The current average water bill is £396, £155 of which — according to a recently published study — is profits and debt servicing.

The government can borrow at uniquely low and stable rates, the current Public Work Loan Board loans are at 1.9 per cent fixed over 25 years, at that rate the above investment could be paid for at a total cost per household of £194 per year.

The borrowing rates from the commercial sector can be guessed to be around five per cent (variable) would mean the same loan would cost households £272 per year.

Therefore, if the water companies remain in the current ownership and borrowing modes then the average bill would need to rise from £396 to £668.

Whereas, if the services were returned to the public sector and profits were removed and existing debts were refinanced at government rates then foreseeably the required investments could be made with a bill rise to £435, just £39 a year higher than we currently pay.

Based upon the above two things become apparent, firstly that it makes sense for the government to pay for any upgrades using their own borrowing capabilities rather than continuing to outsource investment to financiers.

Secondly, the potential cost burden on households is significant, especially when so many have already extremely constrained budgets in a time of rising costs so there is a case for paying for these upgrades from general taxation, and if that were to happen then it would be quite incompatible with profits going out the other way.

This might all be ‘back of the envelope’ stuff and the local situation might not compare perfectly with the national picture, but there is a crystal-clear case for this assessment to be properly done and then we can be closer to answering why is it that the UK has the world’s only privatised water supplier?

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