United Utilities

United Utilities Group plc (UU), the United Kingdom's largest listed water company, was founded in 1995 as a result of the merger of North West Water and NORWEB. The group manages the regulated water and waste water network in North West England, which includes Cumbria, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside, which have a combined population of nearly seven million.[2]

United Utilities Group plc
Public limited company
Traded asLSE: UU.
FTSE 100 Component
IndustryWater industry
Founded1995 (1995)
HeadquartersWarrington, England, UK
Area served
North West England
Key people
Production output
  • 2.0 Gl/day (drinking)
  • 2.0 Gl/day (recycled)
Revenue£1,735.8 million (2018)[1]
£636.4 million (2018)[1]
£354.6  million (2018)[1]

The United Utilities Group was the distribution network operator for the North West until 2010, when the electricity subsidiary was sold to Electricity North West. United Utilities' headquarters are in Warrington and the company has 5,300 direct employees. Its shares are listed on the London Stock Exchange and the FTSE 100 Index.

North West England is the wettest region in England,[3] and water hardness across the region is soft to very soft.[4]


In 1990, North West Water and NORWEB, the companies responsible for the provision of water and electricity to the North West, were privatised.[5] In 1995, they merged forming United Utilities, but retained their separate identities.[5]

In January 1998, United Utilities listed on the New York Stock Exchange,[6] but delisted its shares in May 2007.[7] In 2000, the North West Water and NORWEB branding was phased out in favour of United Utilities, the rebranding was completed by the end of 2001.[5] The company sold some of the businesses it had acquired, its telecoms business, Your Communications was sold in February 2006, and Vertex in March 2007.[8]

In December 2007, United Utilities sold its electricity distribution network assets to North West Electricity Networks (Jersey) Limitied, a joint venture between funds run by Colonial First State (part of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia) and investment bank JPMorgan Chase. Electricity North West became the licensed Distribution Network Operator for the north west of England as a result.[9]

United Utilities operated and maintained the network on behalf of Electricity Northwest until 2010, when Electricity Northwest bought the electricity network operations and maintenance arm of United Utilities to establish one Group.[10][11]

In October 2011, United Utilities was selected as the preferred bidder by Severn Trent Water to purchase the Lake Vyrnwy estate for £11 million.[12] United Utilities later withdrew from the bidding process. In February 2012, United Utilities proposed a national water pipeline linking water sources in Manchester to London.[13] In April 2016, United Utilities received an 18-year loan of £500m from The European Investment Bank to support investment across the North West.[14]

In May 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority granted United Utilities and Severn Trent Water approval to create a new joint venture company in preparation for the water market deregulation. In June 2016, United Utilities and Severn Trent Water formed Water Plus, in readiness to provide the retail services for their non household customers. [15]


As of 2012 United Utilities owned 184 reservoirs and was responsible to provide and maintain the water supply in the region.[16] Some reservoirs operated by the company are outside the North West such as the Longdendale Chain in Derbyshire, which were constructed by the Manchester Corporation in the 19th century, and remain networked to the North West's water supply.


United Utilities operates water and wastewater networks. As of 2012, it was investing £3.6 billion between 2010–2015 to meet water quality standards, deliver environmental improvements and make their network more reliable.[20]

Service problems

Watermain breaks

In May 2010, a burst water main cut 15,000 customers in Moreton, Leasowe and Wallasey off water for 3 days.[21] In November 2019, a burst pipe in a local treatment works disrupted water supply in the CH 41/42/43/63 areas and bottled water supply points were set up. [22]

Water contamination

On 7 August 2015, cryptosporidium, a water borne parasite that can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, had been detected in the water supply to Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Preston, South Ribble and Wyre[23] affecting more than 300,000 customers.[24][25] No cases of cryptosporidiosis were reported and by introducing of ultra-violet treatment units "boil water" notices could be lifted in some areas. Investigations by UU and the Drinking Water Inspectorate had not identified the cause.[26]

On 6 September 2015, the water supply was declared free from contamination, and restrictions were lifted.[27] United Utilities was subsequently fined £300,000 at Preston Crown Court on 10 October 2017 for supplying water unfit for human consumption, with an additional £150,000 costs. It paid around £18 million in compensation to its customers.[28]

See also


  1. "Annual Report 2018" (PDF). United Utilities. Retrieved 11 March 2019.
  2. "Am I in the United Utilities water area?". United Utilities. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  3. "Why a hosepipe ban in England's wettest region?". BBC News. 25 June 2010. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  4. "Water Hardness". United Utilities. Retrieved 22 February 2012.
  5. "Our recent history". United Utilities. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  6. "United Utilities shares launch". The Independent. 30 January 1998. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  7. "United Utilities and ICI drop New York listings". The Guardian. 30 May 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  8. Richard Wray. "United Utilities to sell telecoms arm". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  9. Mark Milner. "United Utilities sells its power supply network". the Guardian. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
  10. Electricity Northwest buys network operations arm from United Utilities Archived 5 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Utility Week, 28 June 2010
  11. "United Utilities disposes of electricity maintenance and repair arm". Liverpool Post. 29 June 2010. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  12. "'Unanswered question' over Lake Vyrnwy estate sale". BBC News. 21 October 2011. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  13. "UU in rail pipe plan to ease north-south water divide". Manchester Evening News. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2012.
  14. Begum, Shelina. "United Utilities receives £500m European Investment Bank funding". men. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  15. "Severn Trent and United Utilities win approval for joint venture". The Telegraph. 3 May 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  16. "About United Utilities". United Utilities. Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  17. "Woodhead Reservoir". United Utilities. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  18. "Bottoms Reservoir". United Utilities. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
  19. "Rivington Reservoirs (main scheme)". Engineering Timelines. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
  20. United Utilities report on £3.6 billion investment Archived 23 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine London Drainage
  21. "Water supply problems resolved". BBC. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2019."Water supply problems resolved". BBC. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  22. Wirral view, Wirral Council (3 November 2019). "DISRUPTION TO WATER SUPPLY". Retrieved 3 November 2019.
  23. "Lancashire homes forced to boil water due to cryptosporidium bug", BBC News, 7 August 2015, accessed 28 August 2015
  24. "Lancashire water parasite alert enters fourth week", BBC News, 27 August 2015, accessed 28 August 2015
  25. "Petition for parliamentary inquiry into Lancashire water bug". BBC News. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  26. "Utility Week – United Utilities fully lifts boil water notice". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  27. "Compensation - frequently asked questions". Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  28. "United Utilities fined £300,000 after water contamination scandal". The Telegraph. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
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