The Environment Agency has called for water companies to be rewarded for reducing the amount of water provided to consumers in a bid to tackle future water shortages.
Publishing its Water Resources Strategy for England and Wales today, the Environment Agency has set out measures that it wants implemented to help protect water resources to 2050 and beyond, including the universal metering of households, a review of the structure of the water industry and actions to reduce water consumption to help lower the country’s carbon emissions.
Water resources are already under pressure in many parts of the country, with some 25 million people living in areas where there is less available water per person than Spain or Morocco. The average Briton currently uses 148 litres every day.
Although climate change will lead to more frequent heavy downpours and increase the risk of flooding, the Environment Agency has calcualted that overall it will reduce the amount of water available in rivers in England and Wales by ten to 15 per cent by 2050, and up to as much as 80 per cent during summer months.
This, along with a potential 20 million increase in the population of England and Wales, will put even greater pressure on the country’s limited water supplies. By 2020, demand for water could rise by five per cent or 800 million litres every day.
The Environment Agency’s water resource strategy sets out key recommendations that include:
- Water companies need to implement near-universal water metering of households, prioritising the most water stressed areas of England.
- A complete review of the way the water industry is regulated. Stronger incentives should be introduced that reward water companies for reducing the amount of water provided
- A review of the structure of the water industry to enable better sharing of water across company boundaries
- A possible reduction or removal of VAT on water efficient products such as washing machines to influence consumer choice and to make water efficiency a bigger factor in buying decisions
- Tighter water efficiency standards in planning conditions for new buildings in areas where water resources are under most pressure.
The Environment Agency’s Chief Executive, Dr Paul Leinster, said: “Water is essential for life and vital to our economy. But climate change and population growth mean there may not be enough water in England and Wales in the future for people and the environment unless we start planning and acting now.
“People and businesses need to use less water and wasting water needs to cost a lot more. The proposals in our new strategy cover actions that need to be taken by water companies, Government, regulators, businesses and the public, and we need a joined up approach to this problem to prevent it becoming a crisis.”