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 the programme that is co-ordinating the development of the market rules, framework and systems that are required for an effective non-household retail market. The programme brings together market participants, Defra, Ofwat, Market Operator Services Ltd (MOSL) and other stakeholders to implement that vision, by opening the competitive market for non-household water and sewerage retail services in April 2017. 

Open Water draws on the experience and expertise of 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 ‘Market Architecture Plan Pre-Vendor Recommendations’ document. It can be found here.

The document includes the key documents that will govern the competitive retail market. We are publishing the material now so that there is a firm basis on which potential suppliers of the Market Operator systems can prepare their bids.

The arrangements for governance of the Open Water programme are currently being refreshed. A key part of this has been to establish clear roles and responsibilities for the activities of the Open Water programme between Ofwat and MOSL.

Our work to date has benefitted from the collaborative approach to market design and implementation. The Open Water programme continues to work with the incumbent companies, new entrants, Defra, Ofwat and MOSL, 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 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.