Consultants and contractors in the water industry are urging European Parliament members to put UK water shortages at the top of their agenda when they make their first trip to Brussels in the next few weeks.
Forecasters are predicting a hot, dry summer for Britain that could result in hosepipe bans for up to 25 million people.
A report last year by the Environment Agency stated that at least 10 million people in the South East have less water available per head than those living in Egypt or Morocco.
British Water’s Sustainable Drainage and Sewage Treatment Plant focus groups have been working with regulators, Government and with the European Parliament to try to encourage a better management of water resources. Recent election results have prompted the Groups to press for immediate action to improve the situation especially here in the UK.
With 72 MEPs making their way to Brussels over the next few weeks, many of them for the first time, British Water believes now is the time to look at radical solutions to a growing problem.
Mike Norton, chairman of British Water’s wastewater treatment focus group said: “When people think of water shortages, they think of Africa and other hot countries, but in fact half the households in England and Wales are in danger of running out of fresh drinking water. Basically the eastern half of the country has a much lower annual rainfall than the west. These new MEPS could really bring the subject to the top of the agenda.”
He is hoping that MEPs will put more emphasis on water harvesting - where grey water and rainwater is recycled -which he believes could save between 37% to 74% of fresh water.
The European Environment Agency recently confirmed that water use is unsustainable in many parts of Europe and emphasized the need to minimise demand rather than increasing supply.
There has been an growing emphasis on how we use our water in the UK since the 2007 floods that killed 13 people and damaged 48,000 homes. Since then, the Pitt Report, the Floods and Water Management Bill and the Government’s Future Water Strategy have all set out measures to improve how we deal with water and wastewater.
Water stressed areas are identified by the amount that has to be extracted from rivers, streams and lakes and in parts of Lincolnshire, the Midlands, East Anglia and the South, more than 22% is taken from fresh water sources compared with 10% in other parts of the country.
But Alex Stephenson, who is chairman of the British Water Sustainable Drainage Focus Group, added: “It will take a pan-European approach to make a difference in how we use our water. To make a difference, we all have to cut our daily usage of water by 18 litres a day. Water can no longer be treated as something that can be flushed down the drain; it is a valuable and increasingly rare, resource.”
British Water is the leading organisation representing the collective interests of the UK water and wastewater industry in the UK and worldwide. Nearly 200 member companies are drawn from civil and process contractors; management, engineering and IT consultants; equipment manufacturers and suppliers; law firms and financial institutions; specialist research and training organisations; publication houses and services providers and exporting arms of water utilities.