Poll: should the UK water industry be renationalised?

Sep 01, 2022

With the UK water sector in crisis The Engineer's weekly poll asks whether you think the industry should be renationalised?

With untreated sewage on the beaches, drought warnings in place across the country, and an estimated three billion litres of water leaking from the network across England and Wales every day, there’s little doubt that the UK’s water industry is in a state of chaos.

In this week’s poll we’re asking whether – as many are suggesting – the time has come to renationalise the sector.

On the surface the case for nationalisation is compelling. In its current form, the sector has failed in what should surely be its fundamental task of shepherding and protecting our water supplies and cutting the discharge of raw sewage into our waterways. Against this backdrop - in a depressingly familiar pattern - consumer prices have increased whilst shareholders and company leaders have creamed off the profits. Indeed, according to a report in The Guardian, water company executives received average bonus payouts of £100,000, despite most firms failing to meet sewage pollution targets.

Clearly something has to give, and perhaps returning this most essential of utilities to public ownership – and removing it from the hands of organisations who put profits first- is the way to go. Then again, there are no cast iron guarantees that a state-run operation would be any more effective. As other commentators have noted in recent days, the UK’s state-run utilities were often notoriously inefficient, bloated organisations, no better equipped to deal with the challenges we now face than their more profit-driven descendants.   

Perhaps, as many have suggested in recent days, what’s actually required is a beefed up regulatory system with fines for leaks and sewage dumping, a legal imperative to invest significant amounts of profit in improving and modernizing the networks and an end to obscene bonuses for the bosses of underperforming - or indeed failing - companies.

In this week’s poll we’re asking for your thoughts on this emotive issue. Should the UK’s water sector be renationalised? Cast your vote and expand on your thoughts by submitting your comments and joining the debate below.

Cast your vote Here.





The Engineer

Jon Excell

Editor & Publisher


United Kingdom


+44 (0)20 80760575


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