About Open Water


Water for Life set out the UK Government’s vision for an innovative, resilient water industry that offered non-household customers a choice of supplier. In May 2014, the Water Act 2014 received Royal Assent and put in place the necessary legislative framework to achieve this vision.

Open Water is charged by Government to coordinate the development of the market rules, framework and systems required for an effective non-household retail market. At Open Water, we are working with market participants, Defra, Ofwat and other stakeholders to implement that vision, by opening the competitive market for non-household water and sewerage retail services in April 2017. 

We are drawing on the experience and expertise of our stakeholders to:   

  • increase choice for customers,
  • encourage better levels of service;
  • ensure more tailored prices; and
  • drive sustainable approaches to managing our water and waste water.

We have now published the second iteration of the ‘Market architecture plan’ document (MAP 2). This includes baseline versions of the key documents that will govern the competitive retail market for non-household water and sewerage customers, and can be found here.


We are taking a collaborative approach to market design and have been working with the incumbent companies, new entrants, Defra and Ofwat, as well as with other stakeholders to draw on their experiences and understanding.

In particular, we have been working with the industry through workshops, small working groups and through other engagement including consultation documents.

Business customers 

From April 2017, all business customers and public sector, charitable and not-for-profit organisations in England will be able to choose their water and sewerage supplier – however big or small the business and wherever it is located. The new market will bring an end to the ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Being able to switch water and sewerage service supplier will mean that businesses are free to negotiate for the best package that suits their needs; be it through more efficient customer service and better-tailored packages, water efficiency advice, or price.

The public sector in Scotland (where competition is already in place) is forecast to save more than £36 million over four years – from discounts to prices and new water efficiency measures.

The market will work in much the same way as in other utility services, where a range of suppliers compete for customers by offering them the best deal. The suppliers will buy wholesale services from the former monopoly suppliers. They will then package them with other value-adding services for their customers at competitive prices.

We are currently planning events with companies next year to explain to business customers the options and choices that will be available in April 2017.