Measuring the Performance of NI Water

The Water Reform process created Northern Ireland Water as a government-owned company in April 2007 and set up a system of economic regulation under the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation. This is an on-going transformation project which is intended to improve the quality and efficiency of water and sewage services.

It was originally intended, under Direct Rule, that NI Water would be financed through domestic charges. To date the Northern Ireland Executive has not introduced charging and apart from extending non-domestic charges, the majority of funding is provided by a subsidy from the Department for Regional Development

A report published today by Kieran Donnelly, the Comptroller and Auditor General, measures the performance of NI Water at an early stage in the reform process and compares it with other GB water companies.

The Department stated that it supports appropriate benchmarking of performance but has reservations about the C&AG’s approach. It stated that “UK water companies have benefited from 20 years of sustained investment through customer charges and are privatised companies which have been run as regulated utilities during that period...benchmarking NI Water against these companies does not reflect the historical context of the water industry in Northern Ireland which has not had this level of investment or operational independence.”

The C&AG found that drinking water quality has improved steadily and in 2009 it met 99.74 percent of European standards. This is only 0.2 percent lower than England and Wales.  However, both the Regulator and the Drinking Water Inspectorate have reported in their most recent publications that significant quality issues remained. The difference compared with GB  was attributed mainly to the level of Trihalomethanes.