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Face up to water crisis


The hint of impatience I detected in your leader and experts' comments on the nation's water resources was music to my ears.

Enough of reassuring noises from some of your experts on the water situation now it has rained in May, on the need for consultation on everything, and on holding the dear old consumer responsible for our water problems.

What is really wanted is a good dose of old-fashioned leadership by those in charge in facing up to some harsh realities.

Let no-one mistake the enormity of today's challenge for water resources presented by climate change: the reduction of surface water yields with a simultaneous increase in demand is a pincer movement if ever there was one.

So what to do about it? Well, let's start by implementing demand management rather than talking about it as we have done for the last 10 years.

First, every 9 litre WC should have a dual flush retrot.

Result: a more than 8% saving in domestic consumption at a stroke, proved by the industry's own research. Second, every large housing development should offer dwellings with a grey water recycling option.

In Northamptonshire, where a scheme to build more than 100,000 new dwellings has recently started, there's not a single example of such an installation, despite a so-called target of a 25% reduction in domestic water consumption.

A universal system of compulsory metering is ne, but it is no substitute for good water management; the right tariffs are essential to the effective curbing of non-essential use, and should be introduced in parallel with water saving devices which are easily available to consumers. Carrots are always more effective than sticks in my experience.

On the demand side of the water balance, leakage rates in some areas are a public disgrace. The need for reduction is evident from a resources angle, but even more vitally important if the water companies are to command the respect of customers.

My father, Delwyn Davies, who was regarded as a water manager ahead of his time, offered a free book of stamps to every customer who reported a substantial leak. You may smile, but Mid Cheshire had the lowest leakage rates of any undertaking in the 1960s, and it was publicly praised for its low water charges. There is surely a lesson there for today.

My nal point: the patchwork of small company operations in the south east is hardly conducive to thinking or acting on the grand scale of strategic resource development so ably envisaged by the Water Resources Board nearly 50 years ago.

So why not bring that back?

At least it gave us condence.

Grainger Davies, Aldwincle, Kettering, NN14 3EP

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