Enfranchising the water consumer: lessons from England/Wales and Ireland
Jenkins, James O.
The following discussion is in response to the discussion article by Professor Richard Ashley concerning the below-mentioned paper published in the September 2010 edition of the Water and Environment Journal: Jenkins, J. O. (2010) The Impact of Politics on the Application of the Drinking Water Directive (80/778/EEC). Water Environ. J. 24, 228–236, DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-6593.2009.00185.x. In his article, Ashley highlights two key limitations of the above paper that sought to explore how political priority and ideology has shaped the application of European Union (EU) drinking water policy in England/Wales and the Republic of Ireland. In particular, he highlights that since 2002 much has happened, and that incumbent governments brook no criticism, implied or otherwise. While this response article initially seeks to address these criticisms, it is the contention by Ashley that the users of water services are disenfranchised from the provision of water services that this paper focuses on. This is an important point to dwell upon, particularly in light of the current government's forthcoming paper on the future of the water industry. However, this response paper does not contend that governments or regulators should ‘enfranchise’ the users of water services. Alternatively, it is argued that the providers of water services should become responsible for enfranchising the consumer. Providers of water services, be they operating under state or private control, are encouraged to establish so-called ‘Consumer Engagement Boards’. It is contended that these boards will facilitate more dynamic partnerships that would better represent and in turn protect the interests of consumers. To help generate a suitably structured response to the comment article by Ashley, this paper is split into four main sections. The first section acknowledges and responds to the critical observations made by Ashley. The following section then seeks to reflect on consumer engagement, and does so mainly from the perspective of England/Wales. Attention is then focused on outlining a vision for improved consumer engagement and representation. Finally, the paper is drawn to a close with a brief conclusions section.