This paper highlights for an international audience, the major technical, socio-economic and political changes which the UK water industry has faced over the period 1974–2006. The author also provides a personal experience of the technical and environmental challenges met by Thames Water in this period. The formation of publicly owned Water Authorities to implement integrated river basin water management is discussed. Government drivers for privatisation and the formation of water industry regulators are reviewed. Privatisation has had impacts on improved water quality and customer service, higher capital investment and changes to pricing mechanisms. A wide range of public and private ownership and service delivery models are now used in the UK water industry.

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