Our performance 2013/14

We measure our performance against a wide range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), to make sure we are best serving our customers, investors and the environment.

All key business areas are assessed, from customer service to water quality, leakage prevention to financial performance. Results are monitored by the industry's water regulator, Ofwat, and shared with our customers, stakeholders and other regulators.

Our 2013/14 figures make encouraging reading and show how we have continued to improve our performance. Each measure is graded using a traffic light system, with green indicating that we are performing well or a target has been met.

Simply click on the arrows on the left of the headings below to reveal more in depth information.

Customer experience

Customer satisfaction (SIM)


Customers enjoyed a more positive experience when dealing with United Utilities in 2013/14 – we have introduced a range of initiatives to deliver improvements that our customers want and our continued progress is encouraging, but there’s still room for improvement. Overall complaints reduced by 17% and there were no serious complaints investigated by the Consumer Council for Water. We have improved our 2013/14 average customer survey (qualitative) score by 0.13 points to 4.56 points compared to 4.43 in 2012/13 and we have moved from 14th to 7th position overall amongst the 19 water companies. The result of this continued improvement was an overall performance score (known as Service Incentive Mechanism or SIM) of 83 points out of 100, compared to 78 out of 100 the previous year.

Sewer flooding incidents


Internal flooding at properties can occur when sewers become blocked, damaged or overwhelmed during heavy rainstorms. Sewer flooding is a messy and upsetting problem; we are working hard to address this issue in our region.

Although the number of homes affected by sewer flooding reduced in 2013/14 when compared to 2012/13, we recognise that we still have more to do in this area and have plans in place to continue bringing the number of flooding incidents down.

We are investing to increase the capacity of the sewer network, fitting homes with flood protection, delivering a rolling programme of sewer cleaning and providing timely advice to families via our Think Before You Flush campaign which will help to bring the number of flooding incidents down.

Water supply interruptions

10 mins

Our customers rightly expect water on tap, 24/7. We are always striving to reduce interruptions from bursts, scheduled work or accidental damage to pipes. The average length of interruption per property was just under 10 minutes in 2013/14. Use of our Alternative Supply Vehicles during bursts and carrying out ‘live’ repairs which don’t require mains to be shut off, contributed to this improved performance.

Water quality


We take pride in every drop of tap water we provide for our customers. In the 2013 calendar year, the water we piped to homes achieved a score of 99.97% for the Drinking Water Inspectorate's measure ‘Mean Zonal Compliance’ - meaning it complies with strict national guidelines for safety and purity. Performance is assessed against 39 individual water quality parameters in samples taken from our customers’ taps. The score was our best performance to date.

You can discover more about the region’s drinking water quality here.

Reliability and availability

Looking after the region’s water pipes


We have around 43,000 kilometres of public water mains in the North West. They are monitored around the clock to keep supplies flowing smoothly. Our stewardship of the network is measured against a range of criteria, including number of pipe bursts and number of properties affected by low water pressure or unplanned interruptions to supply.

In 2013/14, we achieved a ‘stable’ rating – which means that overall, we are meeting our performance targets.

Managing water treatment works and reservoirs


We have 93 water treatment works and 179 reservoirs in the region. These sites require a rolling programme of maintenance and inspection, to ensure customers receive safe, clean water supplies, and that operations are not harmful to the environment. We achieved a ‘stable’ rating for these sites in 2013/14 - meeting our performance targets.

Looking after the sewer network


Our vast sewer network comprises almost 77,000 km of pipes. Collapses and blockages on these pipes can result in pollution, flooding or disruption to households – so continuous careful management is vital.

In 2013/14, our overall performance was rated as ‘stable’. The number of collapses, blockages and equipment failures recorded on our network has reduced significantly over the last four years and flooding at properties as a result of these sewer related problems reduced for a fourth consecutive year. The number of sewer network pollution incidents also fell in 2013 so overall we achieved a ‘stable’ rating.

Maintaining our sewage treatment works


Our sewage works treat an estimated 2,000 megalitres of wastewater from households and industry every day, before returning it safely to the environment. These works have to conform to strict environmental and operational standards. In 2013/14, the management and maintenance of these sites showed general improvement and exceeded the performance targets for the sixth consecutive year.

Tackling leakage

452 Ml/day

We’re working hard to control leakage on our network. Measures including active pressure management, a public leakline number, teams of specialist leakage engineers, and a rolling programme to replace ageing pipes, helped us to exceed our leakage target in 2013/14. This is the eighth consecutive year we've met or exceeded the annual target.

Our leakage target is set to ensure we operate and maintain our water network at the most sustainable economic level. Ofwat monitor our performance against this target. We lost an average of 452 megalitres of water per day, compared to the 2013/14 target of 463 megalitres per day.

Security of supply

100 index score

Ensuring water is always on tap requires careful management of regional supplies. Changing weather patterns, including drier, hotter spells with higher risk of drought, means our strategies for storing and distributing water must adapt accordingly.

By continuing to invest in an integrated, highly adaptable regional water network, and making contingency plans for the future, we kept customers supplied during 2013/14 and achieved a green rating for security of supply.

Reservoir levels


Total storage in our reservoirs at the end of the 2013/14 financial year was above average at 96%.

Our latest reservoir level figures can be found here.

Environmental impact

Greenhouse gas emissions

449 ktCO2e

An efficient water and wastewater service needn’t cost the earth. This year our carbon emissions are 23% below our 2006 baseline and we remaining committed to maintaining at least 21% below our baseline in our target year 2015.

Emissions for 2013/14 totaled 449,042 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a drop of 11% on the previous year. This was a result of a decrease in the amount of electricity purchased for pumping and treatment due to efficiency and optimisation measures, together with an increase in advanced anaerobic digestion of wastewater sludge and a subsequent increase in renewable energy generation. Relatively benign weather conditions and a reduction in the carbon intensity of the UK grid electricity also helped to reduce our emissions.

We have recalculated our carbon footprint baseline and all previous years in order to account for material changes to the conversion factors provided by Defra for company reporting purposes. title="Link to environment page">More details on our wide ranging environmental activities can be found here.

Sewerage pollution incidents


Pollution incidents can arise when there are problems on our network (e.g. a pipe collapse leading to a sewer spillage) or operational issues at our treatment works. We work closely with the Environment Agency and other partners to minimise the environmental impact of these incidents, on the rare occasion that they occur.

In the 2013 calendar year, we recorded a total of forty eight sewerage related pollution incidents (measured per 10,000km of sewer length) – which is better than the industry average. The majority of these incidents were classified by the Environment Agency as minor (category 3) incidents.

Serious sewerage pollution incidents


In the 2013 calendar year, there were 1.1 sewerage related pollution incidents (measured per 10,000km of sewer length) considered to pose a serious environmental risk, according to the Environment Agency’s classification scheme. This represents a performance which is better than the industry average.

Discharge permit compliance


Our sewage treatment works must meet strict Environment Agency discharge permit conditions which govern the treatment and disposal of wastewater. In 2013, just below 99% of our works met these standards which although being lower than the EA target for a green status, is better than the industry average and means we have performed better than our target for the last six consecutive years.

Sludge disposal


Sludge is a by-product of the wastewater treatment process. We produce around 200,000 tonnes of sludge per year, some of which is recycled as fertiliser for agricultural land. This use is subject to a variety of controls, in order to prevent environmental pollution and safeguard human and animal health.

In 2013/14, 99.9% of our sludge disposal met regulatory requirements – just short of the 100 % required to achieve green status. We have an ongoing programme of improvement works in this area and are targeting to achieve 100% compliance in 2014/15. Our 2013/14 performance level shows a further improvement from the 99.2% compliance in 2012/13.

Financial indicators

Post tax return on capital


Our operating profit, less tax, as a return on regulatory capital value, was in line with the post tax return assumed in price limits of 4.85%. The reported value of 4.7% has been adjusted for the impact of a tax credit received in the year relating to settlement of prior years’ tax assessments. On an unadjusted basis the post tax return on capital would be 6.3%

Credit rating


We target an A3 credit rating from Moody’s rating agency, as we consider that this best mirrors regulatory assumptions. This credit rating target has been in place since 2007 and we continue to be rated A3 with a stable outlook. In line with the Ofwat reporting guidance, our KPI measure shows the lower rating issued by Standard and Poor’s rating agency of BBB+. The split ratings reflect a difference in methodology employed by the credit ratings agencies, particularly in respect of infrastructure renewals accounting.



Our net debt, as a percentage of total regulatory capital value, was 61.4% on 31 March 2014. This compares to 64.4% on 31 March 2013. Gearing has been calculated using a United Utilities Water (UUW) net debt number including derivatives.

Interest cover


The interest cover ratio for 2013/14 is 3.0. This represents the number of times our profits, before interest and tax, cover interest due on all our borrowing. This year’s ratio has been affected by the impact of a tax credit received in the year relating to settlement of prior years’ tax assessments and the phasing of pension deficit repair contributions. Adjusting for tax and pensions the interest cover ratio would have been 2.2 which compares to an equivalent normalised ratio for 2012/13 of 2.3.