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Chris Loughlin, Chair of British Water and Dr. Mark Fletcher, Chair of Water Industry Forum (Left to Right)

UK: As the water sector, governments, and wider society face unprecedented challenges, the need to embrace change, innovate and collaborate has never been more critical. The merger of two influential water sector organizations in the UK aims to lead the way.

On 1 April 2022, British Water (BW) and the Water Industry Forum (WIF) announced that the merger of the two organizations was complete.

“By joining forces, we’ve created an even stronger organization that can deliver ever greater value for all our members, key stakeholders, partners, and the sector as a whole,” said Chris Loughlin, Chair of British Water.“There is a tremendous synergy to be gained from bringing our respective strengths together.”

The merger will increase the range of services on offer, strengthen membership support, and enhance the opportunity for challenge-led thought leadership, which will provide greater authority and a stronger voice both nationally and internationally – elements that are only growing more essential in the current economic climate.

Dr. Mark Fletcher, Chair of the Water Industry Forum said, “We are two strong, respected, and financially stable organizations that, together, can provide a single point of focus in the water sector, with our four forums addressing both the UK and international water markets. The merger will provide efficiencies through eliminating duplication of effort, broadening our membership, and opening access to our combined range of services.”

BW and WIF began exploring the possibility of a potential merger in 2020, and following detailed discussions and due diligence, it became clear to both boards that the timing and rationale for pooling resources were so compelling that in 2021 the organizations recommended to their respective members that they proceed with a merger.

“It has been made possible through the commitment of a key team of senior representatives from British Water and the Water Industry Forum, under the wise and dedicated leadership of Tony Conway, a highly respected non-executive director of both organizations,” added Fletcher.

A proposed operating model and governance framework have been developed to support the activities and priorities of the merged organization, and important to preserve the Water Industry Forum’s integrity and independence – enabling it to maintain the trust and respect it enjoys throughout the sector.

The Water Industry Forum will remain as a not-for-profit limited company, operating as a subsidiary of British Water. Its management board will be bound by a code of conduct guaranteeing its independence and neutrality, and its directors will also be required to adhere to a code of ethics, with everyone’s integrity and impartiality assessed on an ongoing basis.

A harmonized subscription model will be introduced during a post-merger transition period. Subscriptions will increase for a small minority of members, with an increase phased in over an extended period.

The merger of these two organizations aligns with the direction of travel throughout the water sector. For example, Water UK’s discussion paper Developing a 2050 Vision for the Water Sector describes a need “for the sector, government, and regulators to build on current areas of joint work and collaborate more effectively to accelerate the rate of positive change. The status quo and incremental approaches will not be enough.”

This sentiment is underpinned by a questionnaire across the UK water sector representative organizations coordinated by the Water Industry Forum, which demonstrated overwhelming support for closer working and increased collaboration.

“British Water and WIF have proud histories of achievements, for and on behalf of their members and the sector,” added Loughlin. “We know that by combining our respective strengths we can create a new and even stronger organization that will deliver added value for all our members, key stakeholders, and partners, enabling us to respond most effectively and efficiently to the unique challenges and opportunities ahead of us all.”

The Water Industry Forum was launched in 2012. Its purpose is to tackle the many challenges facing the UK water sector, through thought leadership and facilitated collaborative working. It does this by providing a forum that is both independent and neutral, enabling multiple stakeholders to come together to share ideas and develop solutions. The challenges are identified by members and addressed through briefings, seminars, and challenge-based events such as roundtables, workshops, competitions, and surveys, with associated outcomes captured in publications and shared across the sector. Around 600 partners, full and associate members including government, regulators, water utilities, contractors, consultants, manufacturers, research companies, third sector organizations, and investors.

British Water dates back to 1938 and today provides a leading and coherent voice on behalf of the UK water sector supply chain, to ensure its members have access to the information and contacts they need to enhance their businesses. It does this by representing members’ interests to key stakeholders, providing contacts and mechanisms to raise their profile and grow their business, and promoting best practices in the water and wastewater industry. In addition to supply chain organizations, its membership also includes water utilities and academic institutions. British Water also represents the interests of its members in the UK and European regulations and legislation, and in the creation of European and international standards. Membership:200+ full members including supply chain companies, water utilities, and academic institutions, together with a network of 3000+ partners and other stakeholders.

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