HALF THE English and Welsh water companies have failed to develop acceptable long term water management plans, the Environment Agency claimed this week.
An EA report, Planning public water supplies, categorised only 15 out of the 28 water company resource plans as 'acceptable'. Six, including those submitted by Severn Trent and Thames Water, contained 'major deficiencies'. South East Water's plan failed altogether.
The report said: 'The plan provided by the Kent and Sussex zones of South East Water fails to plan to meet customer demand for water. In a dry year (not an exceptional drought), the company runs the risk of failing to supply its customers with water.'
But despite only half the companies making the grade, the Agency claimed the development of management plans was 'a major step forward'.
EA director of water management Geoff Mance said: 'We are very pleased that, for the first time, 27 companies are using yield estimates for abstractions. I am also pleased the plans show leakage reductions. There are few proposals for new reservoirs.
'We now have a baseline for rolling improvements. We will consult with the companies on a yearly basis.'
However, Mance was critical of South East Water: 'We are struggling to pin them down. There has been a lot of discussion but hardly any action.'
South East Water claimed it was the EA that was at fault. A company statement said: 'South East Water believes this deficit [in calculated levels of resources] exists on paper only and did not put in proposals to deal with a deficit - a view supported by three independent studies (Arup, Halcrow, Institute of Hydrology).'
South East has until 1 October to produce an acceptable plan.
The plans result from a Department of the Environment decision to improve the efficiency and sustainability of water supply in England and Wales after the 1995 drought.