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Benn Reveals Government's Water Strategy

Environment minister Hilary Benn yesterday launched 'Future Water', the government's water strategy for England, which includes measures to manage surface water, and ways to improve efficiency by reducing water demand and wastage.

The strategy would reduce the average household's consumption of water from 150 to 120 litres per person per day by 2030, dealing with contaminants responsible for water pollution at the source, and a review of user charging.

"Securing and maintaining water supplies is vital to the prosperity of the country and to the health of people and the environment. No one approach will work for all areas, but we must find ways of improving efficiency, and of reducing demand and wastage. That's what this strategy will help deliver," said Benn.

The document emphasises the need for smart-metering in addition to special tariffs intended to assist those on lower incomes control their usage.

"Our current system of charging, based largely on the value of people's homes 35 years ago, is archaic and rife with anomalies. We need a fairer system that offers incentives to conserve water. In areas of serious water stress it's pretty clear that this will mean near universal metering before 2030," he said.

Another proposal discussed in the strategy paper was the introduction of surface water management plans which would clarify responsibilities for drainage systems and help coordinate activity.

Benn explained: "Alongside looking at how we use and pay for water, we also must look at how water affects us."

He added: "These pressures are going to get worse as the climate changes, the economy grows, and population increases. Combined with the need to reduce CO2 emissions from the water industry and from our use of hot water in our homes, this means that we must find ways of improving efficiency, and of reducing demand and wastage."

Shadow Floods Minister, Anne McIntosh said: "Today's water statement from the Government is huge let down. The public will rightly be very disappointed that the Government has simply announced two more consultations and a review on the future of water charges and metering. Once again this Government is dithering over decisions conducting reviews rather than taking action."

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