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Water Industry Registration Scheme: What you need to know

The Water Industry Registration Scheme (WIRS) has been developed to allow contractors who meet the scheme’s requirements to become registered as accredited WIRS providers. Any business looking to carry out work on the installation and commissioning of water mains and services to be implemented by a Water Utility including Project Management, Design and Construction need Water Utility approval.

WIRS is backed by Water Utilities as it negates the need for them run their own approval schemes and as such, they encourage all WIRS providers involved in the construction of new water mains and services for adoption to obtain WIRS accreditation.

Being an accredited and subsequently registered WIRS provider gives companies the opportunity to tender for and undertake installation and commissioning of water mains and services, in keeping with their accreditation level, with the Water Utilities in whose area the work is being done.

Any WIRS provider contracting to undertake contestable work (as defined by OFWAT and detailed in the National Self-Lay Code of Practice) can be accredited, and registered under this scheme. The scheme is recognised by all Water Utilities within England and Wales and enables WIRS Providers to tender for, and if successful, carry out design, installation and commissioning of water mains and services.

The Water Industry Regulation Scheme is operated by the Lloyds Register Group and is used to independently assess service providers looking to work within the water industry.

Lloyd’s Register EMEA is a worldwide accreditation and inspection body that has been chosen as the Scheme Operator for WIRS. The controlling body of WIRS is the WIRS Advisory Panel (WIRSAP), which consists of representatives from WUs and WIRS providers and has input from OFWAT, Energy and Utility Skills and Lloyd’s Register.

The requirements of the scheme are discussed and agreed upon when the group meets every four months.

There are three main categories of accreditation available:

Project Management: for those WIRS providers who don’t have construction site staff but want to engage in contract negotiations with clients for connection work and play a role in the adoption agreement with the relevant Water Utility.

Design: for those WIRS providers who want to carry out the design aspect of the installation of the infrastructure.

Construction: This is divided into seven sectors that include:

  • Work on development sites with mains up to 355mm diameter
  • Off-site work with pipe diameters over 355mm diameter
  • Service laying on development sites (where mainlaying is not done by the WIRS Provider laying services and service diameters do not exceed 63mm)
  • Making routine in-line mains connections (only allowable when a mainlaying scope is already held)
  • Construction of routine and non-routine under pressure mains branch connections (Scotland Only)
  • Permanent disconnections (Scotland Only)
  • Meter installation maintenance activities (Scotland Only)

The assessment for accreditation is split into two parts – partial and full.

With the partial element of the process, the WIRS provider must be verified to ensure it has the requisite management systems, method statements and competencies and that their health and safety capability is appropriate for the work being undertaken.

The partial accreditation allows for contractors who don’t have a track record in the water industry to gain a foothold as a WIRS provider in the water industry. If the company can demonstrate their competencies, they could be awarded partial accreditation and be able to bid for work.

Once successful, the company would be required to contact Lloyd’s Register who would undertake a site assessment on their first contract to enable them to gain full accreditation. Without the partial accreditation and subsequent registration phase it would be difficult for contractors with no water track record to enter the contestable market.

For a company to achieve full accreditation, it must be verified that it has work control, contract change control, HR, Procurement and storage systems available to make sure work processes are consistent and competency is maintained both on site and in office-based support services.

Full accreditation can only be attained upon the company being awarded work and undertaking the full scope of works for which accreditation was sought. An assessor will visit one or more of the sites where work is being performed to assess the competency and methods of work applied, to make sure consistency with the competency and method statements reviewed under the partial assessment process.

The costs of accreditation are based on a set of standard charges and an information sheet outlining costs is available on the Lloyds Register WIRS website. The cost will depend on the scopes requested and the size of the WIRS provider.

Further guidance is available at