The UK government needs to step up its action on water metering and tackle the environmental effects of over abstraction, the Parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is warning.
In a report out yesterday in response to a government White Paper on water, the Committee says that the government must prepare for a future where water resources in England will be under increasing pressure.
As the UK ricochets between drought conditions and flooding, Committee chair Anne McIntosh warns that the government’s proposals to reform water abstraction by the mid-to-late 2020s will too late to help rivers that are “already running dry”.
The Committee also brands the government’s failure to set a target in the White Paper to increase levels of water metering “disappointing”.
“It’s hard to see how the White Paper's call for water to be managed as a precious resource can be reconciled with the lack of any clear target to increase metering levels,” says McIntosh. “Installing a meter is the most effective way to improve water efficiency, providing a clear incentive for householders to minimise wastage.”
The UK has among the highest levels of water usage and lowest levels of metering, which currently stand at around 40%, in Europe and numerous reports have indicated that widespread water metering can reduce usage by 10-15%.
But the Committee did give a cautious thumbs-up the government’s plans to open up the water retail market to more competition, as has already been done in Scotland.
“We welcome plans to increase competition in the water industry, although we believe that the White Paper’s proposals for reform will fail to deliver a well-functioning retail market,” says McIntosh. “Defra should set a clear target date for opening a competitive retail market for water, and should take account of lessons that can be learned from Scotland,” she adds.
Although the Committee’s report emphasizes that Ofwat should be working harder with water companies to reduce leaks and address bad debt in the industry, which is costing customers around £15 a year.
The government is expected to publish a draft water bill over the next two weeks before the breakup of Parliament for the summer, which will provide further details of its plans for the industry over the coming years.
For further information:
Europe must use water more efficiently, says report (15-Mar)
Efficient hot water boilers could save UK organisations £400 million a year (1-Mar)
Water efficiency lower down the agenda the climate change (17-Nov 2011)
06 July 2012