Who's responsible for water? Wholesaler, retailer and customer roles explained.

By Eleanor Bailey

The deregulation of the water market in 2017 means that things in the business water world may seem a bit confusing. Let’s be honest, even the word deregulation makes it sound complicated!

The industry is now split into wholesalers and retailers. But what does that mean? Who does what and who should you talk to now when you need to?
Are you confused?

We know this sounds needlessly tricky. After all, when you just had one water company it was obvious who to talk to. Your wholesaler was responsible for everything – providing water, quality control, billing, meter reading, and customer service.

Now though, retailers have taken over responsibility for billing, meter readings and customer service.

So, who does what exactly? You can read this blog to find out, or watch our handy video:


Wholesalers (such as Severn Trent or United Utilities) provide water. They’re responsible for: water treatment, the quality of your water, the large water main pipes that distribute water, the pipes that carry this water to the boundaries of properties, and water meters.

They are not responsible for the water pipes within a customer’s property. This bit’s important, because it means that once the pipes have crossed the boundary into your business they’re your responsibility. This leads us nicely onto...


Customers receive water from wholesalers. You are responsible for: the supply pipework (the smaller pipes that carry water from wholesaler pipework into the boundaries of your property), drains, plumbing fixtures, and ensuring the plumbing and pipework in your property meets required standards.

You might not want to hear this bit, as it means that if there is a leak in the pipework within your property boundaries, or the pipework is worn out, you must repair this. It’s because as soon as water has passed through your water meter, you’re judged to have used it. So whether that water has been used to make a nice cuppa, or has been pouring out of a burst pipe soaking a few unfortunate employees, it’s your responsibility.


As for retailers, like us, well we’re here to provide customer service in-between the wholesaler and the customer. We’re responsible for: reading water meters, billing, providing account management services, and offering additional water efficiency services, advice and support. We’re not responsible for any pipework or leaks.

Although you’re responsible for dealing with leaks on your property, we don’t want to leave you in a soggy mess. We can help by giving you advice on what to do, and we also offer a leak detection and repair service through a number of approved providers. If you get really stuck and have no water, we have suppliers that you can call who provide emergency water. You’ll have to pay for this though, but in an emergency it may be just what you need. 

Why is the water industry split?

You might be thinking, what was the point of splitting the industry? Well, it’s a good thing. Firstly, it means you might be able to make savings on your water bills. It also means you have choices – you don’t have to be trapped into dealing with a business simply based on geography, or deal with multiple companies if you have business sites in lots of different areas. You can use a retailer like us for one business water account, or all of them if you have lots of business premises.

Contacting your retailer is usually your first port of call when it comes to water, but we don’t want you to waste your time trying to get through to us when you actually need to talk to the wholesaler, or the wholesaler when you just need to call your trusty plumber. So here’s who you need to contact and when:

Who to contact

If you suspect you have a leak in your property, you should contact a plumber or Water Plus’s leak detection and repair services.

If there is a leak outside the boundaries of your property, you should contact your wholesaler.

If you have a problem with your water meter, you should contact us.

If you have questions about your bill, meter readings, you need advice or are interested in extra services such as water efficiency services and products, you should contact us at Water Plus.

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