Northern Ireland Water

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Northern Ireland Water Limited (Irish: Uisce Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlan Wattèr) is a water company in Northern Ireland. Formerly an executive agency (the Northern Ireland Water Service) within Northern Ireland's former Department for Regional Development, it became a government-owned company on 1 April 2007. The company now sits as an Agency within the Department of Infrastructure (DfI). The company provides 575 million litres of clean water a day for almost 1.8 million people as well as treating 340 million litres of wastewater every day, and has approximately 1,300 staff. It is responsible for 27,000 km of watermains and 16,000 km of sewerage mains, as well as 23 water treatment works and 1,030 wastewater treatment works. It cost around £460m each year to deliver water services across Northern Ireland.

The organisation has been historically underfunded and this has resulted in curbs to economic development affecting over 70 towns throughout the province. The company has stated it requires £2.5bn for its next funding period from 2021 - 2027.

Water charges in Northern Ireland are paid through the rates system.


Prior to 1973, water and sewerage services in Northern Ireland outside Belfast were the responsibility of local councils. Within the capital, the Belfast City and District Water Commissioners were responsible; the Water Commissioners' building in the city centre is a landmark, currently occupied by retailer Marks and Spencer. In 1973, responsibility for providing these services was transferred to the Department of the Environment. Within the Department, a new Water Executive was responsible for the management and administration of water and sewerage services.

When water and sewer companies were privatised in England and Wales in 1989, these services remained public in Northern Ireland and in Scotland.

In 1996, the Water Executive became an executive agency and was rebranded as the Northern Ireland Water Service and, in 1999, responsibility for water transferred to the Department for Regional Development.

For decades domestic water and sewer services in Northern Ireland have been provided without charges to customers. Only non-residential customers received water bills and had water meters. However, in December 2002 it was announced that Northern Ireland's water and sewerage services would become self-financing. This was followed by two years of extensive consultations on water reforms, with the aim of introducing meters for new houses as well as water and sewer charges for all domestic customers.[1] The announcement of the establishment of a state-owned company was made by Minister of State John Spellar in August 2004. The water charges plan was included in the Water and Sewerage Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, introduced by then secretary of state Peter Hain. In parallel, Northern Ireland Water Limited was created in April 2007. An anti-water charges campaign in 2007 resulted in the plans for water charges to be abandoned. Later, all major parties in Northern Ireland claimed to have had a leading role in the anti-water charges movement.[2]

In 2007 a system of economic regulation had been set up similar to the existing system in England and Wales where Ofwat regulates the water sector. The Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation was appointed to carry out this role. Performance benchmarking by the regulator showed that there was a "performance gap" with England and Wales concerning drinking water quality, wastewater quality, leakage, customer service and efficiency. This gap has now been more than halved. April 2017 marked the Company's first 10 years, in 2016/17 the Company reported record levels of wastewater compliance, with water quality compliance remaining a near record levels.


NI Water is a Government Owned Company (GoCo) – which is a statutory trading body owned by central government but operating under company legislation. This means that the Company's corporate governance structure and compliance is with the Companies Act 2006 and the principles of good corporate governance as set out in the UK Corporate Governance Code, where appropriate. As a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) sponsored by the DfI, the Company's sole Shareholder, the Company takes into consideration the relevant governance provisions in the Department of Finance and Personnel's (DFP) guidance entitled ‘Managing Public Money Northern Ireland’ (MPMNI).

The Company has a Management Statement and Finance Memorandum (MSFM) in place with the DfI and the DFP to provide further clarity and accountability to stakeholders.


The Board of Northern Ireland Water comprises four Executive and six Non-Executive Directors: Dr Len O' Hagan CBE DL, Belinda Oldfield, Patrick Larkin, Maurice Bullick, Marie-Thérèse McGivern, Peter McNaney CBE, Sara Venning, Ronan Larkin, Paul Harper, and Mark Ellesmere.

Progress & Performance since 2007[edit]

Since NI Water's formation in 2007/08, the organisation has steadily improved the quality of drinking water, levels of environmental compliance and efficiency compared to other UK water utilities. Customer satisfaction has also improved raising from and Overall Performance Assessment (OPA) of 98 in 2007/08 to 228 in 2016/17. NI Water have invested £1.9 billion in Northern Ireland's water and sewerage infrastructure since the formation of the organisation in 2007/08. Over the same period the organisation has more than halved the efficiency gap with the leading water utilities in England and Wales.

Every day, NI Water abstracts / extracts, treats and supplies 575 million litres of clean water from 23 water treatment works via 355 pumping stations through 27,000 km of water mains - to 680,000 households and businesses across Northern Ireland. Each day, NI Water also removes, extracts, treats and disposes of 340 million litres of wastewater using over a thousand wastewater treatment works, 1,300 pumping stations through 16,000 km of sewers.

Plans in NI Water’s PC15 – six year Price Control – 2015 - 2021[edit]

NI Water is currently in the fifth year of its six-year price control, PC15 which runs from 2015 – 2021. Through the period, NI Water plans to build on the progress since 2007 and 60% of their investment will be targeted on maintaining and improving high levels of service.

Key targets include:

  • Maintaining Drinking Water Quality in accordance with PC15 S&EG
  • Reducing Leakage by 7 million litres a day from 2012/13 to 2020/21
  • Introducing new targets to measure customer
  • Improving Wastewater compliance with 99.16% of the population equivalent served by compliant works by 2020/21
  • Improving Water Pressure and removing more than 830 properties from the low pressure register
  • Reducing supply interruptions over 6 and 12 hours
  • Reducing the risk of flooding and removing 62 properties the register of properties at risk of internal sewer flooding
  • Reducing the risk and number of pollution incidents

Capital Investment through the PC15 period - 2015-21 aims to deliver the following-

Proposed Water Investment:

  • Current service levels maintained
  • 816 km of water main rehabilitation / replacement
  • 2 trunk main schemes to improve security of supply
  • 9 water treatment works schemes
  • 3 clear water basins being to be provided / enhanced
  • Removing more than 830 properties from our low pressure register

Proposed Wastewater Investment:

  • Current service levels maintained
  • 74 km of new and upgraded sewers
  • Removal of 54 unsatisfactory sewer discharges
  • 19 large WwTW upgrades
  • Programme of upgrades to 45 small WwTWs
  • Removing 62 properties from register of properties at risk of internal sewer flooding

Major reservoirs and treatment works[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Water Affordability under the Water Reform Proposals" (PDF). School of Sociology and Social Policy, Queen's University, Belfast. September 2005. p. 2. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  2. ^ "Water charges: North has lessons for campaigners". The Irish Times. 4 December 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2016.

External links[edit]