One of the key external drivers is what matters to our stakeholders, as our plans and the way we operate are influenced by their views.

Read more about these in Delivering our purpose

The way we work is impacted by a number of factors external to our business that we must consider and manage.

Natural environment

The natural environment is constantly changing, and we must adapt and prepare for future impacts such as climate change and population growth. We can help mitigate climate change by minimising our own emissions and environmental impact. Our use and return of water to the environment is a continuous cycle, and returning water cleanly and safely, as well as managing our catchment land effectively, allows this cycle to begin again from the best starting point.


The nature of our work means we are at the heart of communities in our region, and have an impact on a large variety of stakeholders. We own and manage huge areas of land in areas of natural beauty that are valued by locals and tourists alike. It is important, therefore, that we give consideration to what matters to those stakeholders, and we build relationships and consult with them in developing and executing our plans.

Technology and innovation

New technologies and innovative ideas present opportunities for us to make things faster, better, safer and cheaper. These can come from a huge variety of places – across different industries and different countries as well as ideas from within our business. We encourage innovation externally and internally at all levels of the business, from our annual CEO Challenge and dedicated innovation team to our Innovation Lab. As well as opportunities, technology can create risks, and this is why our approach to cyber security is so important.

Economic environment

We are impacted by market rate movements, such as interest rates and inflation, but we seek to manage these prudently to reduce risk as far as practical. As well as these direct impacts on the company, the economic climate impacts our customers and their ability to pay their bills. We operate in an area with high levels of extreme deprivation, so helping vulnerable customers is particularly important for us.

Regulatory environment

Sustainable business means preparing for future market reforms as well as meeting current regulatory commitments. We place great value on our relationships with economic, quality and environmental regulators. We engage actively and regularly, both on progress with our ongoing plans, and on consultations for future reforms where we offer our views and influence where we can.

Political environment

Political decisions have the potential to significantly impact on our operations. As a responsible business, we ensure that we abide by the directions set by government, and stay flexible to adapt according to political and policy developments. Therefore, we engage closely with politicians and other policymakers from the government and other parties on a constituency, regional and national level, to understand the development of policy which will affect our business, and to communicate the economic, social and environmental value that United Utilities delivers in the North West, and the UK as a whole.

To provide great water and more for the North West we must first consider our economic, quality and environmental regulation, and the particular characteristics of our region.

Our industry and market

Customers in England and Wales are served by 11 licensed water and wastewater companies and smaller companies providing water-only services. Our regulated entity, United Utilities Water Limited, is the second largest, based on the size of our Regulatory Capital Value (RCV). We serve over seven million people, with over three million household customers making up around two-thirds of our revenue, and over 200,000 businesses. As a monopoly provider of essential services, we are regulated by various bodies as set out below.

Our economic regulator (Ofwat) sets the price, service and incentive package that companies must deliver in five-year periods, known as Asset Management Plan periods (AMPs). These packages are based on Ofwat's methodology and priorities, and consideration and scrutiny of company business plans. We must therefore engage constructively with Ofwat on its future priorities and methodology consultations, and submit high-quality plans to help ensure we receive a determination that targets the best outcomes for us to continue creating value for customers and all our stakeholders, and effectively incentivises us to continue improving performance. To ensure our plan is robust and balanced, we consult with customers and other stakeholders (including quality and environmental regulators) and factor in long-term planning and resilience needs.

This was the final year of AMP6 and we have accepted the final determination for AMP7, covering the 2020–25 period.

Our focus is now on delivering and trying to outperform our final determination through:

  • Spending less than our total expenditure (totex) allowance through innovation and efficiency;
  • Beating the Outcome Delivery Incentive (ODI) targets for operational performance;
  • Delivering higher customer satisfaction than the other companies in our industry; and
  • Raising debt finance at a cost below the industry allowed cost of debt.

Since privatisation the water industry has invested a significant amount, contributing to improvements in public health and environmental standards, better quality of services, and superior quality drinking water. In its final determinations for AMP7, Ofwat has allowed a further £51 billion across the industry to deliver even more improvements.

Our regulators assess our comparative operating performance against the other water and wastewater companies in England and Wales, with the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) assessing performance in water, the Environment Agency (EA) assessing performance in wastewater, and Ofwat assessing customer satisfaction. The latter two, which were in place at the start of AMP6, are included in our operational key performance indicators (KPIs). Our vision is to be the best UK water and wastewater company, so we regularly benchmark our performance against these peers. As well as assessment against our water peers, we benchmark our customer service performance against other leading service providers in our region.


licensed water and wastewater companies


largest water and wastewater company in England and Wales


allowance across the industry to deliver further improvements in the next five years

Our regulators

We are subject to regulation of our price and performance by economic, quality and environmental regulators, as shown in the diagram.

These bodies exist to help protect the interests of customers and the environment, but they can have competing interests. For example, in agreeing environmental improvements and over what timeframe these will be delivered, we must consider how much it will cost and the need to protect customers from bill shocks. Balancing these interests requires open and continuous dialogue.

The regulatory framework can change significantly in the long term and we have seen substantial tightening of laws and regulations since privatisation. While much is outside our direct control, maintaining good relationships enables us to engage positively with regulators to influence future policy, aiming to achieve the best outcome for all our stakeholders.