How our water industry started
At the start of the 19th century, clean water supply and waste water treatment in England and Wales was owned and operated by local government and private companies. These suppliers all had different powers, charges and resources for investing in pipes and equipment.
During the 19th century, many local councils took over responsibility for the actions of the private companies. By 1973, in England and Wales there were 29 river authorities, 160 water supply undertakers, and 1,300 sewage treatment authorities. In 1974, the Water Act 10 Regional Water Authorities (RWA) were created by bringing together all these companies.
The RWA took over the water supply from the 29 River Authorities, and ran sewage treatment through government agents. Each were responsible for clean water supply, sewage removal and treatment, as well as river protection in it’s area. These were led by a board with local authority and central government representatives. Severn Trent Water Authority was one of the 10 original water authorities.
After a lack of available government funding, there was a decline in the quality of river and tap water and infrastructure stability during this period. It was decided by the government in the mid-80's to privatise the water industry. Through loans and private shares being issued, there was a much needed cash investment through the new privately owned water companies. This helped to improve the infrastructure as well as water quality across the rivers, beaches and from customers taps. These 10 River Water Authorities passed into private ownership in 1989.