WATER COMPANIES should be charged more for abstracting their supplies, according to a Royal Academy of Engineering report submitted to environment ministers this week.
The report, A statement on securing water supplies* also calls on the Government to produce a long term national water resources plan to reduce the frequency of water shortages.
The report, produced by a working group of RAE fellows including Ove Arup chairman Duncan Michael, RKL Arup senior partner Brian Rofe and ICE president elect Roger Sainsbury, says: 'Consideration should be given to a substantial increase in the charge for raw water at source in such a manner as to apply a conservation discipline to all parts of the water cycle.'
Working group chairman Stuart Mustow claimed that the current water supply planning system is inadequate with water resources increasingly coming under pressure.
'A new body is needed to take a strategic view of Britain's long term water supply needs with the necessary powers to implement its plans,' he said.
The report claims that the water industry should make more use of technology and techniques already in use in the process industry to 'promote economic management of the industry'.
But the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions dismissed the call for a new strategic planning body. A spokesman said: 'The policy for water is our responsibility. We have legislation which controls what water companies do and there is more planned in the future.'
He added: 'If we raised the cost of the raw resource there is always the danger that this would be passed on to the consumer. A full review of abstraction licences is planned anyway in the next few weeks.'
A spokesman from water companies trade association UK Water was also doubtful about borrowing techniques from the process industry. 'They are two very different disciplines. A process plant is a defined site, whereas we have over 3,000km of water mains to look after in the water industry,' he said.
*Available from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Tel: (0171) 222 2688.