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Construction work for utilities is poised for a significant boost thanks to growing public concern over water quality.

The recent media outcry over river pollution and demands for more investment to improve water quality is set to bolster the prospects for new construction work from the major utilities.

The water companies are set to embark on a dramatic expansion of their investment programme in the coming years. In all, £96 billion is set to be invested in water and sewerage over the next 2025-2030 AMP 8 period: an 88% increase on the current five-year period. According to the trade body Water UK, it represents the largest-ever investment made by the industry and will be the biggest in Europe.

Investment to triple

The industry plans to triple investment to £11 billion to reduce overflow spills through upgrades of sewage works with the aim of reducing the incidence of these spills by more than 140,000 each year by the end of the decade. It plans to build ten new reservoirs to secure water supplies along with some major new national water transfer schemes. In all, the aim is to cut leakage by over a quarter by 2030. Meanwhile, some 28 new wetlands are to be built to improve water quality and biodiversity.

Together – and if approved by Ofwat – these plans will provide a major boost to civil engineering workloads and some lucrative contracts for firms across the industry.

Ahead of the extra investment, Glenigan data shows that there are significant existing opportunities for new water-related work.

Indeed, one factor behind the 17% increase in civil engineering starts for 2024 predicted in the recent Glenigan Construction Industry Forecast 2024-25 is a strengthening in utilities starts driven by water industry investment.

In response to recent bad publicity, a priority for utilities’ investment is new wastewater facilities. One significant project where detailed plans have been granted is United Utilities’ £110 million water booster station at Bolton Wastewater Treatment Works in Lancashire. The scheme is at the pre-tender stage and work is due to start this spring and run for 12 months (Project ID: 22361151).

Bristol Water Recycling Centre Extension

It follows the recent go-ahead for the £100 million Bristol Water Recycling Centre Extension (pictured) for Wessex Water where Aecom is a key consultant. Work on the project – which will increase volumes treated and improve the quality of wastewater released into the Severn Estuary – is getting underway this spring and will run over five years (Project ID: 22134602).

Other smaller wastewater investments by utilities companies are also in the pipeline. For example, Southern Water has recently submitted detailed plans for a £1 million wastewater treatment works at Staplefield near Haywards Heath in West Sussex. Work is due to start this coming summer and run for eight months (Project ID: 23183619).

Opportunities on frameworks

The water utilities are also starting to provide new work opportunities on some major frameworks ahead of the start of the new AMP 8 period next year. United Utilities is currently inviting tender applications from main contractors for its £240 million AMP 8 Minor Works Framework which will involve around 200, mainly-civils projects, ranging in value from £50,000 to £1.75 million over 2025-30 (Project ID: 23379176).

Across the Pennines in Bradford, Yorkshire Water is inviting tenders on its £1.5 billion AMP 8 Non-Infrastructure Framework which will involve new and refurbishment work across the county in a range of disciplines over the five years (Project ID: 23145560).

As well as civils projects, the water utilities also offer scope for work on building-related contracts. From its base in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, Anglian Water Services is currently inviting tenders for a £32 million minor buildings maintenance framework agreement, which will involve around 25 suppliers and run for eight years, starting this spring (Project ID: 21488622).

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