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Cost of water may have to rise, says Lords committee

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.


Committee recommendations

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.

Readers' comments (7)

  • What about Water Companies fixing more leaks??

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  • We should treat water as a very precious resource and educate our population, especially in the UK, to use it sparingly.
    In the near future, there will be many conflicts worldwide, due to the lack of water.
    Neville French

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  • Bunkum, There is no shortage of water in this Country only a shortage of storage. As with most of our infrastructure new resevoirs have been neglected. Since when has there been a problem with quality, we have one of the highest standards in the world. In addition, desalination is now economically mature as well as technically so and we have plenty of water surrounding us!. The last thing we need is more increase in prices.
    D Limbert (F)

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  • OK, water companies must fix more leaks; the current percentages are unacceptable.
    However, many people still waste water, in their everyday lives. It's time to change habits and perceptions regarding water usage.
    Neville French

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  • The assumption that our climate is simply going to get warmer and drier due to global warming is fast being disproved by theory and observation (I'm looking at the rain filled clouds at the moment).
    Climate change has altered our weather patterns to some extent, but Derek is quite right to say that there is still plenty of water in this country. What we really need is more investment in network replacement, storage and production.
    People are unhappy with being told everything is going to be more expensive. The government needs to take a lead and provide for the future instead of constantly beating us over our heads. That, however, would probably be asking too much of any politician these days.

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  • Barry Walton

    Unfortunately percentages are the biggest irrelevance in the resource management discussion as a look at OFWAT's June returns would show. The estimated average demand figures vary from 118 l/h/d (Veolia E) to 168 l/h/d (Violia C) and leakage from distribution systems between 5.3 m3/km/d (Dee Valley) and 21.3 m3/km/d (Thames) - OFWAT 2009, so there is no safe % relationship between leakage and distribution input, even less between % losses and drought conditions. What would be worth knowing is whether Anglian, Thames, Southern, et al, by reducing their system and customer losses (less than 1000Ml/d and 1300 Ml/d resp - 2009), could have averted a drought. Remember that, unlike current flood water, the losses dribble irrigate the ground rather than run off rapidly or evaporate. Also, in the case of Anglian, they may still be compliant with their 10 year hosepipe ban level of service so may not be required to take any additional preventative action.

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  • Has no one remembered our report (House of Lords) on water management in 2006?
    In 2007/8 I told Michael Pitt that floods and droughts were the obverse of one another and we needed to plan for integrated water management. The civil servants ignored this in the final report.
    The Water White Paper once again ignored the fact that all forms of water are resources...
    It really is about time that not only politicians but the media woke up. There have been some dreadful articles in NCE recently - notably the one about water supply competition in Scotland that had no facts and no opposing views. Since Jo left there has been even less decent water related journalism in NCE.
    Even the online questionnaires have (a) spelling mistakes; (b) no space to provide comments or to tick 'none of these'!

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