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Liquid assets: land owned by the water utilities

August 30, 2016

Who owns England?

Image: Thirlmere Reservoir, Cumbria, owned by United Utilities – Wikimedia Commons

When you turn on a tap, brush your teeth or flush the loo, probably the last thing on your mind is where that water comes from or is going to. Clean running water and sewerage systems are the unsung underpinnings of civilisation. But collecting, storing and cleaning all that water requires a lot of land; and today, in England, that land is owned by 9 companies.

In 1989, the Thatcher government privatised the water industry, selling off the 9 English regional water authorities to private firms. These firms have continued to operate as monopoly service providers in these regions – you can’t actually switch supplier – so you might ask why the industry was ever privatised.

The table below lists the water utilities serving England, what’s known about the landholdings they own, and what public farm subsidies they…

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