Water and Wastewater – review of the year 2009

It was a somewhat turbulent year for those working in the water industry with regulator Ofwat going against companies it felt was trying to charge too much for bills.

Water industry regulator Ofwat blocked plans by some water companies to increase charges and in fact ordered bills to be cut.

Before the announcement on November 26 average bills looked like rising between £30 and £50 according to the proposals put forward by water firms.

According to the announcement the average water bill in England and Wales will remain at around the same price until 2015, while also staying £34 below wanted companies had wanted.

The decision was followed a week later with by the announcement of outspoken chief executive of Thames Water stepping down after three years.

David Owens was a key figure for the firm and grabbed headlines since taking over in 2006, by speaking out on controversial issues like flow restrictors and run ins with Ofwat.

The year also saw scientists claim they have managed to lock CO2 in underground water in gas fields around the world where it will remain for millions of years, marking a major step forward in developing viable carbon capture and storage technologies.

The international team from the

universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Toronto
say they have overcome concerns that this kind of long-term storage might not work and quelled doubts that the gas might be securely trapped.

Project director Professor Chris Ballentine, from the University of Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, said: “We cannot change our society overnight to a low carbon economy. While we are in this transition we have to bury our excess CO2 emissions.

Another university team hit the headlines when they discovered a major new coral reef during a deep-water expedition.

The reef,

which is described as ‘pristine, thriving and hence spectacular’
was found off the southern end of the Porcupine Bank off the west coast of Ireland.

The province covers an area of some 200sq km and contains about 40 coral reef covered carbonate mounds, some of which rise as high as 100m above the seafloor.

An £11m study into how acidic the sea has become has been announced by the British Government.

The five-year study will look at the north east Atlantic, Antarctic and Arctic oceans, following fears acid levels have risen by 30% in the last 200 years.

The sea absorbs large quantities of carbon dioxide (co2) but in turn becomes more acidic.

The United states also saw continued devastating floods as water swept across north Georgia causing $250m worth of damage.

Luke Walsh

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