About Open Water

Roles and responsibilities

The Water Act 2014 established the framework to create a market that will allow 1.2 million businesses and other non-household customers of providers based mainly or wholly in England to choose their supplier of water and waste water retail services.

The Open Water programme was set up by the UK Government to deliver the competitive market by April 2017.

The key organisations responsible for delivering the new market are Defra, Ofwat and MOSL.

The programme was overseen by Open Water Markets Limited (OWML) until August 2015, when its activities were transitioned into MOSL and Ofwat.

As a key partner, MOSL has a central role in developing and delivering the core systems and processes that will enable customers to switch between suppliers. MOSL is actively engaging with participants and coordinating activity across the industry to support the programme in the run up to market opening in April 2017.

Open Water encourages stakeholders’ active participation. We publish relevant papers, consultation documents and notice of stakeholders’ meetings and workshops on this website.

Decision making

The Open Water programme is led by a Management Group of senior executives from MOSL, Defra and Ofwat. This group (the RMOMG) is responsible for:

  • overall programme governance and leadership;
  • oversight of plans, budgets, risks and policy issues.

Chaired by Defra, the group takes programme-level decisions and delegates day-to-day decision making to the Programme Management Office and the individual work streams. It is supported by a number of groups that report to it covering programme management, policy issues and communications.

Find out more about the overall governance of Open Water.

Partners’ roles and responsibilities

The table below gives an overview of the key responsibilities specific to each Open Water partner.

Open Water partners roles


Find out more about roles and responsibilities for the programme.

Our plans

An integrated work plan for the Open Water programme is published each month on Ofwat’s website.

The vision

The Open Water programme was created to support the delivery of a retail water market for non-household customers in April 2017. The opening of the market is the cornerstone of the UK Government’s vision for the future of water management in England, as set out in the Water White Paper, ‘Water for Life‘.

It aims to develop:

  • A resilient water sector, in which water companies are more efficient and customer focused, and in which water is appropriately valued.
  • An improved range and quality of services offered to customers by removing barriers to competition, fostering innovation and efficiency, and encouraging new businesses to enter the market.
  • Markets where all participants operate on a level playing field.
  • A more sustainable use of resources and keener pricing for customers.

Success criteria

The following high-level success criteria for the market were agreed in 2012 and revised slightly in January 2016:

  • All non-household customers have a choice and are aware of how they can exercise that choice. They are in a position to negotiate better targeted, more efficient and more cost-effective services.
  • Outcomes are cost-beneficial for the majority of customers.
  • The new competitive markets are fair, transparent and efficient.
  • The market delivers a seamless customer experience in England and Scotland.
  • The market incentivises innovation in services by both existing and new market participants.
  • The market encourages diversity of entry and minimises barriers to entry.

MOSL has developed a set of principles, based on the success criteria outlined above and reflecting its specific delivery role. Find out more about MOSL.

OWML board papers

You can find links to the papers of all OWML board meetings, which took place between February 2014 and July 2015 here.

OWML’s activities were transitioned into Ofwat and MOSL with effect from 1 August 2015.


Central Registration System
Charges Scheme
Charging Guidance
Charging Principles
Charging Rules
Code Panel
Common Wholesale Contract
Contracting Authority
Current Retailer
Deemed Contract
Default Contract
Default Service Levels
Default Tariff Price
Financial Settlement Process
Gap Premises
Imbalance Settlement
Incidence Effects
Incumbent Water Company
Incumbent retailer
Central Registration System
Charges Scheme
Charging Guidance
Charging Principles
Charging Rules
Code Panel
Common Wholesale Contract
Contracting Authority
Current Retailer
Inset appointee/Inset
Market Monitoring
Market Operator
Market Operator Assurance
Market Participants
Minimum Wholesale Service Levels
New Appointee (NAV)
New Entrant
New Retailer
Non-Potable Water
Operational Services
Performance Monitoring
Retail Authorisation
Retail Developer Services
Retail Licensee
Code Panel
Retail Market
Retail Tariff
Retailer of Last Resort
Self-Lay Regime
Self Supply Licensee
Service Point
Service Provider
Default Service Levels
Sewerage Licence
Sewerage wholesaler
Standard Retail Contract
Trade Effluent
Unserved Premises
Upstream Provider
Vacant Property
Void Property
Water supply wholesaler
Wholesale Authorisation
Wholesale Charges Scheme
Wholesale Services Catalogue
Wholesale Tariff
Wholesale Tariff Structure
WIA - Water Industry Act 1991
WSL (Water Supply Licence)