Governments of the UK and other European countries may have to act urgently to facilitate a rise in the cost of water to safeguard supplies and quality, a House of Lords committee warned this week.
The Lords Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment EU subcommittee made the warning in a report An Indispensable Resource: EU Freshwater Policy, published on Wedensday, because of the significant lack of rain of late.
It also called on the UK government to bring forward the deadline for reforming the water abstraction regime, outlined in its Water White Paper. The government say that more than 10% of rivers are abstracted to an extent that may damage water ecosystems, but it only set a target of the mid to late 2020s for reforming the regime. The committee thinks that delaying this reform for at least 15 years fails to respond to the urgency of the situation.
“We welcome the Government’s support of the ‘catchment management’ pilot schemes that are already running, which foster local involvement and will help to safeguard water resources. Price increases may well be an inevitable part of helping to secure our water supplies in the future,” said committee chairman Lord Carter.
The EU must start planning immediately for a future in which water resources will be increasingly uncertain, with factors including climate change playing a significant role;
The Government must allow the cost of water to increase where other measures to tackle water scarcity have failed;
More must be done both by the Government and by the European Commission to promote the catchment level as an important level of governance, in the Blueprint for the future of the EU’s water resources which the Commission will produce this year;
Local stakeholders (for example, rivers trusts, amenity groups, anglers and farmers) should be allowed to play a much greater role in decisions on issues such as river catchments, in order to reconnect people with the value of water as a resource; and
The EU should encourage all Member States to develop national water scarcity and drought management plans.