A hydro electric plant on a river
Overview

We are widely recognised as a preeminent water practice. Our cross-firm Water Sector team acts on a variety of high profile instructions for clients across the sector including a number of statutory undertakers, licensees, companies across the supply chain and the main industry regulator OFWAT. 

Our water lawyers have a current and detailed understanding of the industry, the key legislation affecting the sector and how the relevant regulators operate in practice. We understand how OFWAT approaches its regulatory duties through the experience that several of our team have gained through working at and for OFWAT. Members of our team have also worked in the industry bringing valuable expert knowledge and insight.

We have acted on a wide variety of commercial matters within the sector including advice on framework contractual agreements, procurement processes, employment and pensions, corporate governance issues, IT insourcing and outsourcing projects, dispute resolution and renewable energy projects. We also provide assurance in relation to regulatory submissions; making applications to regulators or government in relation to licences or other matters; and defending prosecutions or investigations of licence infringements, health and safety matters or other areas of sector regulation. 

Our water related expertise is also increasingly sought by clients from outside the sector. Following the recent liberalisation of the retail water market for commercial customers, we have, for example advised key clients on their water supply agreements. 

We also have a market-leading environment team who advise on all issues of water law including defending prosecutions for water pollution, dealing with the various licences relating to the use of water and flooding claims which can affect a whole spectrum of clients.

Areas of focus

Our water sector expertise includes the following:

  • Advising statutory water and sewerage undertakers on regulatory requirements and investigations (in particular in relation to Ofwat, DWI and EA).
  • Advising new entrants to retail markets on entry requirements and potential legal issues.
  • Advising on competition issues arising in relation to the competitive segments of the water and sewerage markets.
  • Advising water and sewerage undertakers on all of their commercial needs including environmental, planning, employment, real estate, dispute resolution and renewable energy projects.
  • Advising on the increasing commercial opportunities for the water sector.
  • Advising contractors on construction projects in the water sector.
  • Defence of criminal prosecutions for water pollution and abstraction cases.
  • Advising on impoundment and abstraction licences – including appeals, compliance, trading arrangements, transfer and judicial reviews.
  • Advising on Marine Licences.
  • Advising on discharge and trade effluent consents.
  • Flooding claims.
Experience

Advising a water undertaker in relation to its statutory duties.

Advising water and sewerage undertakers in relation to internal structuring and revised procedures in the context of the water and sewerage market opening.

Advising the owners of a water and sewerage undertaker in relation to another investment in the water sector.

Advising a water and sewerage undertaker in relation to potential competition issues (margin squeeze and unfair pricing) arising in the context of new developments.

Advising a water undertaker in relation to a variety of employment issues.

Advising a water and sewerage undertaker on planning issues arising from a Sustainable Urban Drainage System initiative.

Conducting the defence of criminal prosecutions for numerous clients for pollution of controlled waters/breach of abstraction licences.

Advising on separate judicial reviews connected with the refusal to grant an impoundment licence for a hydropower project and amendments to a Marine Licence.

Advising Third Energy on its submissions to and negotiations with the Environment Agency concerning the injection of process water from an onshore gas site into an adjoining saline aquifer.

Advising a global manufacturer on an appeal to Ofwat arising from a dispute in relation to a trade effluent consent.

Advising Canal and River Trust in arbitration proceedings with Bristol Water connected with bulk water supply agreements.

Advising Ofwat on its Water2020 Programme and 2019 Price Review process.

Prepared and updated a suite of real estate precendents for major UK water utility.

Acted for Wessex Water on the defence of a prosecution for water pollution, resulting in the largest enforcement undertaking accepted by the Environment Agency.

Supported Affinity Water in its project to facilitate HS2 works negating any impact the project might have on their ability to draw water.

Advising the Environment Agency and the Canal and River Trust on the compulsory purchase orders being promoted for the largest fish pass scheme of its kind in Europe.

Advising a major UK water utility on its transition away from its current IT managed service providers.

Advising a major water utility on framework contract disputes.

Advising a leading water company on a potential dispute with a regulatory body as to whether its Anaerobic Digestion plants are covered by the Environmental Permitting Regulations or the Urban Waste Water Directive.

Meet the team
Michael Barlow

Michael Barlow Partner

  • Head of Energy, Power and Utilities
  • Environment
  • Water
Rupert Weston

Rupert Weston Partner

  • Corporate
  • Hotels
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
Noel Beale

Noel Beale Director, Competition – Regulation

  • Competition
  • Transport
  • Water
Philip Beer

Philip Beer Partner

  • Real Estate
  • Transport
  • Energy, Power and Utilities
Steven James

Steven James Partner

  • Energy, Power and Utilities
  • Construction and Engineering Disputes
  • Construction and Engineering Contracts
Richard Adams

Richard Adams Partner

  • Construction and Engineering
  • Infrastructure
  • Construction Disputes
Adrian Martin

Adrian Martin Partner

  • Head of Employment
  • TUPE: Business Transfers and Outsourcing
  • Restructuring and Redundancy
Gary Soloman

Gary Soloman Partner

  • Head of Planning and Compulsory Purchase
  • Regeneration and Highways
  • Compulsory Purchase and Compensation

What others say...

...long experience advising the water sector across a number of issues... provides well-tailored advice based on the best knowledge of the industry.


The team understands the subtleties of water-related law and how it works in the real world. Its ability to place the legal framework into practical and understandable language is almost unique.

Legal 500, 2020

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