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Water companies warn of shortages in 20 years

BRITAIN FACES serious water shortages in 20 years' time unless the Environment Agency agrees to the construction of more reservoirs and sinking of new boreholes, water companies warned this week.

Growing demand and increasingly hot, dry summers have raised water company fears that they will be unable to maintain supplies unless they can increase spending on new water sources.

'By 2020, we can see a point where our reliable resources will not be meeting increased demand, ' said a spokesman for Severn Trent.

The Environment Agency has a major input into water regulator Ofwat's policy on water company investment priorities. The Agency is due to publish its National Water Resources Strategy in December.

Historically the Environment Agency has made the water companies develop water resources management rather than sanctioning new construction.

As a result they have focussed on linking reservoirs, boreholes and rivers and on cutting leaks to increase efficient water use.

Anglian Water strategy manager Ed Smith said that although this approach had been successful, it has a 'finite' use. 'We need contingency plans for the future, ' he said. 'It can take 15 years to construct a new reservoir, ' he added.

Water consultants were pessimistic about the prospects for a change of Environment Agency policy.

Binnie Black & Veatch deputy chairman Chris Binnie said the Agency was unlikely to back increased water resources, as this would interfere with its plans to cut water abstraction and licensing.

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