Drinking Water Inspectorate to issue guidance on common carriage

The chief inspector of the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) has told UK water companies that he will not block proposals for water mixing but that he will refuse proposals which threaten plans to reduce lead levels.

Common carriage, or the right for different water companies to use the same distribution system and therefore mix different water, will be a legal option from March. Michael Rouse, chief inspector at the DWI has stated that if water companies use his organisation’s guidelines a system of common carriage should work.

“One of the reasons to put out our advice ahead of March is so the incumbents and incomers have it available to them in advance,” Rouse told UK water company representatives at a conference organised by WTI Training in association with Water UK.

DWI guidance on water mixing will be issued in mid-February. “If the guidance we issue is followed and people do their homework then common carriage will work,” said Rouse.

The DWI’s main area of concern is that proposals for water mixing should not threaten the UK’s ability to meet EU standards in reducing lead levels in drinking water. “Lead is the issue. Incompatible water mixing must not risk the plumbosolvency measures that will be used to try and avoid the prospect of lead pipe replacement,” said Rouse.

“It is possible that we will be able to achieve 10µg/l in many areas without the replacement of lead pipes,” said Rouse. “But a lot of effort will be required.”

Speaking on the UK water industry’s future in general, Rouse warned against water companies shedding too many operations employees. “I don’t mind if staff reduction comes from board members or accountants,” said Rouse wryly, “but I do mind if it’s from operations.” He warned that water companies risk failing to maintain the past decade’s huge improvements in operational performance of distribution systems by cutting too many staff.

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