We are proud of what we do at Thames Water, so it is always encouraging to know that people want to understand more about our business. But different people want to know different things and we need to be able to tell our story in ways that suit them. The details of our financial performance for the year ending 31 March 2017 are all contained in our financial report, The next chapter, and our Annual performance report shows how we have done against our operational targets. This report will you tell more of the story behind the numbers, with a wide range of case studies to bring things to life.
At the end of my first year at Thames Water, after a career in the telecommunications industry, I am finding it hugely exciting to be leading a business that touches so many lives every day. It is also a huge responsibility and one that I do not take lightly. All of us at Thames Water make decisions and take actions every day that affect our customers and the environment. We need to make sure those decisions result in the right outcomes and provide a positive legacy for future generations, as well as meeting our customers’ immediate needs.
The natural environment is at the heart of the service we provide to our customers. We take water from the environment, treat it to a very high standard and deliver it to our customers’ properties. We then collect their wastewater and treat it using biological processes before recycling it safely to the environment. All of these activities have environmental impacts, as does the energy we use and the renewable energy we generate.
Our 15 million customers also play an active part in operating our water and wastewater networks every time they turn on a tap, use a washing machine or flush the toilet. So finding new and effective ways to engage with them and explain our business is a continuing priority. They rely on us to provide them with a good service, but if we don’t explain – for instance - why it is important to fix dripping taps or why wet wipes need to go into the bin and not down the toilet, we cannot expect their understanding or cooperation.
I fully recognise that when things go wrong in this business we can have a devastating impact on our customers’ lives and on the environment. That is why we work so hard to ensure that things do not go wrong, with proper systems and safeguards. It is also why if things do, nevertheless, go wrong, or we fall short of the high standards our customers rightly expect of us, we are open about what has happened, put things right as quickly as possible and learn lessons for the future.
During the last year we’ve seen a series of major bursts on some of our larger Victorian water pipes, with devastating impacts on the households affected and traffic disruption over a wide area. We have also missed our leakage target, for the first time in a decade. These failures are being taken seriously, additional investment has been committed and detailed recovery plans are in place. This is a huge priority for us and we will be keeping everyone up to date on our progress via our website and in the media.
We are also paying a high price both financially and reputationally for major pollution incidents that occurred between 2012 and 2014. Since these events we have put in place new procedures and personnel, and invested heavily in infrastructure, training and control systems, to limit the possibility of any similar events in the future. We have also committed significant funds to improve the river environment in the affected areas.
This report aims to show some of the ways in which we are approaching the task of providing our customers with what is, by any standards, an essential service and the progress we are making in many areas. I am not seeking to play down the significance of the failures I have just mentioned. But it is fair to point out that there is also some encouraging news, in important areas such as the increase in renewable energy generation, the reduction in sewer flooding, offering a ‘round the clock’ service on social media and innovating across the business in many ways which will improve service to customers, engage more strongly with communities and protect and enhance the environment.
As you read this report, I hope you will see that Thames Water is fully committed to driving changes that will really deliver for our customers. We have started an exciting new chapter and look forward to engaging you in our story along the way. In doing so it is important that we are open and transparent with our customers and stakeholders, so if you would like some more information or have any questions, please get in touch. I look forward to working with you and thank you for your continued support.
Steve Robertson, Chief Executive Officer