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About Us

Steered by a High Level Group, the Open Water programme will deliver the market architecture, codes, any identified central systems and contract(s) needed to implement the wholesale and retail arrangements outlined in the draft Water Bill.


About the programme

Steered by a High Level Group, the Open Water programme will deliver what is needed to implement the wholesale and retail arrangements outlined in the Water Bill.

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Work on the development of market codes, the identification of the necessary data, processes and systems, and the establishment of arrangements to facilitate interaction with the Scottish competitive market, has just begun under the sponsorship of the High Level Group.

The programme will:

  • facilitate and co-ordinate industry change.
  • provide support and guidance.
  • engage with companies and other relevant stakeholders to assess their progress.
  • identify any impact the programme's activities have on the wider sector.

The Programme encourages stakeholders’ active participation and will publish relevant papers, consultation documents and notice of stakeholder meetings and seminars.

For more information on the Programme please contact the Interim Open Water Programme Director: John Parsonage (John.Parsonage@open-water.org.uk).

Our Plans

In 2011, the UK Government published the Water White Paper ‘Water for Life’, which set out its plans to:

  • increase choice and improve service for water customers.
  • stimulate innovation and drive more sustainable approaches to managing our water resources.

The Draft Water Bill, published in 2012, includes the legislative changes required to deliver these ambitions for the water sector. The Bill will enable the creation of a new market for retail water and sewerage services to non-domestic customers in England. This new market will work effectively with the existing market in Scotland. The Bill also includes measures to stimulate greater innovation and choice in alternative water resources and sewerage services in England.

The ambition is to open the new retail market in April 2017. A High Level Group has been brought together to drive the implementation of these market reforms. The group comprises representatives from:

  • Defra
  • Ofwat
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • existing market participants
  • new entrants
  • customers.

The new arrangements will take time to agree and deliver and will require the establishment of new ways of working amongst existing industry participants, new entrants, non-domestic retail customers and sector regulators. Work is also underway within Ofwat to deliver the appropriate regulatory framework for the new markets. 


The Vision

The Open Water Programme has been created to support delivery of the UK Government’s vision for the future of water management in England, set out in the Water White Paper.

We want to support a resilient water sector, in which water companies are more efficient and customer focused, and in which water is appropriately valued.

We will improve the range and quality of services offered to customers by removing barriers to competition, fostering innovation and efficiency, and encouraging new businesses to enter the market.

We will create markets where all participants operate on a level playing field.

Our reforms will drive more sustainable use of resources and keener pricing for customers.

Success Criteria

The High Level Group has established a set of criteria against which the success of the new arrangements will be measured. These include that;

  •  All non-household customers in a position to negotiate better targeted, more efficient and more cost effective services.
  • Outcomes are cost-beneficial for the majority of customers.
  • The new competitive markets are fair, transparent and efficient.
  • The market delivers a seamless customer experience in England and Scotland.
  • Reform incentivises innovation by both existing and new market participants.
  • Reforms to upstream markets in England drive sustainable and efficient use of water, encouraging innovation and choice in alternative water resources and sewerage services.

Our Outcomes