Ask the expert: Water Director Kristian Marsden

Kristian standing in his garden, smiling at the camera.

Our Water Director Kristian Marsden is leading our expansion into the water sector. Today, he’s giving us an overview of the water industry and explaining how our new NAV business will benefit our clients.

First things first, what is a NAV?

As a New Appointment and Variation (NAV) company, we adopt, own and operate water and wastewater networks on new developments.

We can adopt the clean water network or wastewater network separately, or we can adopt both networks.

We also adopt sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), water courses and pumping stations too.

What part of the water network does mua operate?

We’re responsible for what’s known as the ‘last mile infrastructure’. That’s the part of the network that delivers clean water and removes wastewater from properties, be that residential, industrial or commercial.

We own the network up to the property boundary. The final section of pipe leading from the boundary into the property is the responsibility of the property owner.

As well as adopting water networks, mua also adopts electricity and gas networks. What are the main differences between the utilities?

We’re a multi-utility network operator, but there’s some key differences in how the different utilities operate:

  • We don’t own the gas or electricity that we transport through our networks, but we do own the water that we supply to customers.
  • We bill customers for our water and wastewater services, but we don’t bill gas or electricity consumers.
  • We’re responsible for water networks up to the property boundary, but we’re responsible for electricity and gas networks up to the meter.
  • Both householders and businesses can choose their gas and electricity suppliers, but only businesses can choose their water supplier.

Why would a developer look to a NAV company for water and wastewater services?

NAV companies like us provide competition in the water market. The water industry is monopolist, with regional water companies operating the water and wastewater services in their area.

As a NAV, we’re able to own and operate the water and wastewater networks serving new developments. We’re not restricted to operating networks within a particular region, so we can work with developers on projects nationwide.

The water regulator Ofwat has determined that incumbent water companies will no longer be able to offer income offset to developers from 2025. However, developers can come to us to make up for the reduction in contribution to the new water network.

How will mua do things differently to other NAV adopters?

Just like we do with gas and electricity, we’re putting our clients first when it comes to how we operate as a NAV. We want to make life as easy as possible for the developers, housebuilders, landowners and multi-utility contractors we work with.

We’re shaping our new NAV business together with our clients, asking for feedback and designing our processes from scratch around what they need and want from a water asset adopter.

For example, we know when you request a water asset value quote, you want it there and then. You can’t wait days to get a quote back, which is the norm for the industry.

We’re updating our asset value portal so you can get water asset value quotations instantly. And you’ll be able to get your water quotes alongside your gas and electricity quotes, so you’ve got a multi-utility adoption solution for your development in minutes.

Another key way in which we’re different to other NAV adopters is that we’re flexible in our design. Our standards are written in a way to give you and your customer the customisability to adapt the network to your project requirements.

What will be the biggest challenge for mua as we expand into the water sector?

Our biggest challenge when it comes to moving into the water sector will be creating greater awareness and an understanding of the reasoning around project viabilities when it comes to asset value offers. The gas and electric adoption industry has been clean cut with regards to what projects can be adopted. But the NAV sector is still really in its infancy in comparison and there are still areas which aren't viable when it comes to adoption.

How will homes and businesses benefit from mua’s water and wastewater services?

At mua, our mission is to help build more sustainable places to live and work. When it comes to our water business, we have a real focus on sustainable water management practices. This includes implementing sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS), water recycling and reducing water wastage.

We want to help homes and businesses take control of their water usage. We’ll be encouraging smart meter services to enable customers to identify ways of reducing their water use and saving on water bills.

Does the new water business mean new job opportunities?

Definitely. We’re looking for new talent to join us and help us grow our new NAV business. Keep an eye on our current vacancies page if you’re interested in joining us, as we’ll be advertising new roles there in the months to come. 

In saying that, our water business is very much part of our core business, so there’s lots of opportunities for our existing team of gas and electricity experts to be involved in the water side too. It’s a really exciting time for all of us at mua.

Thanks to Kristian for helping demystify the water sector for us.

If you’ve got a question for Kristian, or any of our mua experts, get in touch by email or on LinkedIn.