Billions of pounds' worth of water contracts will be awarded to utilities in the coming weeks ahead of the opening of the business supply market.
The first major framework contract is expected to be awarded by Crown Commercial Services on behalf of the UK’s public sector which is understood to be worth between £800m to £900m.
A steady stream of contract awards from high street retailers Marks & Spencer, Next, Sainsbury’s and Argos are expected to follow in the coming weeks.
The water companies understood to be in contention for the largest awards from multi-site companies include Anglian Water, Scotland’s Business Stream and new venture set up by Severn Trent and United Utilities.
Britain’s two largest water companies formed Water Plus venture last year by combining their existing non-domestic supply arms in a bid to corner the market before it opens for competition in April this year.
In Scotland, businesses have been able to choose their supplier for almost a decade but the market in England and Wales will move away from regional monopoly supply for the first time next month.
Business Stream, which is part of the Scottish Water group, was set up in 2008 to supply water in the deregulated business market. Jo Dow, Business Stream’s chief executive, said the “relentless” volume of new bids coming into the market has sparked “fierce competition” among the suppliers.
“We weren’t sure how much switching there would be in the early days of the market but based on the volume of bid activity that we’re seeing there will be a reasonable amount.
“An awful lot of this activity is around large multi-site customers. My biggest concern is around the small customers, the SMEs, there’s a lack of awareness and it’s very evident in the activity to date,” she said.
Earlier this month Business Stream partnered with energy and waste water company Veolia in order to offer potential business customers a broad spectrum utility solution.
“We see a massive amount of opportunity here. At the moment we’re focusing on two or three areas where we want to target customers together. But there is a real opportunity to work together as a supply chain too,” Ms Dow said.