There has been a great deal of coordination and discussion on water and wastewater issues and the virus, mainly over the previous fortnight. These have involved government departments and regulators but have mainly been between water wholesale and retail companies. There has been significant coordination and there now appears to be the common consensus.
My view, based on these discussions and the best current knowledge, is that:
- The coronavirus cannot be transmitted through water supplies. Tap water poses no risk whatsoever in relation to the virus.
- The latest advice is that coronavirus cannot be transmitted via the water in swimming pools or spas that meet the required bathing water standards (as long as your pool is clean there does not appear to be a risk).
- Increased hand-washing does not seem to have had a significant impact on the demand for water.
- It is not envisaged that there will be any interruptions in water supplies or issues with water and sewerage service due to the virus and the UK water sector is not aware of any issues arising in countries in a more advanced stage of the virus.
- As more people stay at home domestic use will increase but it is generally believed that the drop in industrial and business use will offset any increase in domestic demand.
- However, demand profiles may change and this may lead to some pressure variations across networks as water companies adapt to the new demand patterns. This should not be significant and if you experience any issues you should inform your water company who can arrange an adjustment in the pressure on the networks.
- The main potential threat to water and sewerage services is one of staff absence and such shortages may lead to logistical issues with treatment and supply. However, a lot of these issues were rehearsed doing the preparations for no-deal Brexit when the sector looked at possible traffic gridlock. Therefore, procedures are in place for skeleton staffing and most plants already have a high degree of automation and remote monitoring.
- If there are unforeseen events that lead to problems with water quality then the worst case scenario is that boil notices may be issued in certain locations where water quality has deteriorated – however I believe that this will almost certainly not be the case and if it happens we will coordinate with affected customers and sites.
- There is no need to switch to drinking bottled water or to stockpile bottled water. Tap water is and will remain just as good (and in my view much better) than bottled water.
- With regard to meter reading and billing business customers may see some process delays and these are currently being discussed with the regulators.
- Water wholesale company response to incidents and events may be delayed or cancelled due to staff shortages, and a number of wholesalers and their contractors will not attend sites with where people have the virus, some meter reads may also be delayed or cancelled.
- Some water wholesalers, retailers and contractors will ask questions about the presence of the virus before attending a site.
- If a business has to shut down site then in some areas it can be classed as vacant and you will not have to pay water, wastewater or drainage charges for this site until it reopens. This varies between regions and the water regulators are supposed to be producing standard guidance on this, but if you want advice please feel free to contact me (details below).
- In short, water and sewerage are not things you need to worry about during the virus outbreak.
The Water Retail Company work closely with Ecoprod in helping business customers with their water management, so if you need any more information on water and the coronavirus then please feel free to get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.