Bristol Water

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Bristol Water PLC
Public limited company
Industry Water supply
Founded 16 July 1846
Headquarters Bristol, England
Area served
2,600 km2 (1,000 sq mi) of South west England
Key people
Mel Karam, CEO
Products Drinking water
Production output
0.266 Gl/day (drinking)
  • Increase£ 111 million (2015-16)
  •     £ 105.3 million (2011-12)
Number of employees
Parent iCON Infrastructure Partners III, L.P. (50%), iCON Infrastructure Partners III (Bristol), L.P. (30%) and Itochu Corporation of Japan (20%).
Bristol Water Works - - 94918.jpg

Bristol Water supplies 266 million litres of drinking water daily to over 1.2 million customers in a 2,600 km2 (1,000 sq mi) area centred on Bristol, England. It is regulated under the Water Industry Act 1991. Sewerage services in the Bristol area are provided by Wessex Water.

Approximately half the water is taken from the Mendip Hills, particularly Chew Valley Lake, Blagdon Lake, Cheddar Reservoir and Barrow Gurney Reservoirs, with the other half is piped from the River Severn via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal. There are 6,772 km (4,208 mi) of local water mains.[1][2]


The company was formerly known as Bristol Waterworks Company, which was formed on 16 July 1846 by an Act of Parliament.[3][4] The first general meeting was held in the White Lion Hotel on Broad Street.[5] Members of the first committee included William Budd, a physician who helped control cholera outbreaks in Bristol, and Francis Fry of the Fry family.[5] Women were first employed at Bristol Waterworks during the First World War.[5] By April 1942 female staff had entirely replaced men on night telephone duty.[6]

On 28 July 1939 the company began construction on the Chew Valley Lake Scheme as a reservoir for the city. It was the largest and most expensive project in the company's history. The first sod was cut on 10 July 1946. Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated Chew Valley Lake on 17 April 1956, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.[6] On 24 November 1941 the Bristol Blitz caused 95 fractured water mains in the city but by 28 November the water system in the city was restored to normal.[6]

Between 1952 and 1963 the company increased the total supply area from 123 square miles to 929 square miles to include Portishead, Long Ashton, Clevedon, Axbridge, Shepton Mallet, Glastonbury, West Gloucestershire Water Company, Clutton, Weston-super-Mare, Tetbury, Frome, Somerset, Burnham-on-Sea and Bathavon Rural District.[6] The severe winter of 1962 caused 668 burst mains across the company’s supply area in 76 days. Water had to be carted through the streets of Bristol to try and meet demand. In April 1963 a reception at the Council House thanked staff, contractors, drivers and volunteers who had helped.[6]

On 5 October 2011, a subsidiary of Capstone Infrastructure Corporation acquired a 70% interest in Bristol Water from Grupo Agbar, who retained a 30% interest in the company. On 10 May 2012, a subsidiary of Itochu Corporation acquired a 20% indirect interest in Bristol Water. Today, iCON Infrastructure have agreed to acquire a 30% stake in Bristol Water from Suez, bringing the 10-year relationship with Agbar (now part of Suez) to a natural end, following the takeover in 2006 and the sale of a 70% stake in 2011. Today, Bristol Water is owned by iCON Infrastructure Partners 111, L.P. (50%), iCON Infrastructure Partners 111, L.P. 30% and Itochu Corporation (20%) and is a plc with company number 02662226.[7] Bristol Water is one of very few water companies in the UK that has remained in private ownership since its inception.[8]


Records of Bristol Waterworks Company and Bristol Water are held at Bristol Archives (Ref. 40619) (online catalogue). Further records are held at the The National Archives (United Kingdom).[9]


  1. ^ "Water suppliers". U Switch. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  2. ^ "Cheddar Reservoir Two". Bristol Water. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  3. ^ Hodgson, Alan (1991). The story of the Bristol Waterworks Company 1939-1991. 
  4. ^ "Our History". Bristol Water. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c Jones, Frederick C, The Bristol Waterworks Company 1846-1946, 3rd Edition, St Stephen’s Bristol Press Ltd, 1993
  6. ^ a b c d e Hodgson, A, The Story of Bristol Waterworks Company 1939-1991, 1991
  7. ^ UK Companies House
  8. ^ "Bristol Water Works Company; a study of nineteenth century resistance to local authority purchase attempts". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  9. ^ "The National Archives Discovery Catalogue Page, Bristol Waterworks Co". Retrieved 12 April 2016. 

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