THE ENVIRONMENT Agency this week attacked water regulator Ofwat's 'price control philosophy', claiming it had failed to encourage water companies to reduce customer demand.
Agency director of water management Dr Geoff Mance said continued over- abstraction meant that 122 environmentally fragile sites in the UK were under threat of destruction.
His warning came at last week's Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management conference, Making Better Use of Water Resources.
Mance highlighted 30 fragile habitats, 24 sites of special scientific interest and 68 other sites including low flow rivers that were under threat as companies focused on price control rather than demand management.
He said none of the water companies had revised their April 1997 efficiency plans to include best practice approaches promoted by the Agency, and urged Ofwat to act.
'It is clear that at present the price control philosophy discourages progress on demand management,' he said.
'As metered sales increase, company income decreases with better demand management. This needs to be addressed by Ofwat.'
Mance added that although the 122 sites were covered in the current review of water prices - AMP3 - the water companies had a duty to protect these sites through efficient water use.
He also pointed out that the Agency and English Nature had identified a further 313 fragile habitats under threat from excessive abstraction.
An Ofwat spokeswoman agreed that all companies should be encouraged to continue reviewing their plans to reflect best practice.
She added: 'It is a statutory duty of water companies to promote efficient use of water and we monitor that.'