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Water palaver


With reference to your report of our national water resources strategy (NCE 22 March) I fear that the central message has been missed.

While we have indeed considered the options you list, we do not endorse all of them as implied by your article. The strategy strongly endorses the twin track approach to balancing supply and demand.

After reading your article one could be forgiven for thinking the strategy is a dam builders' charter.

The strategy does not adopt the old 'extrapolate the line on the graph' approach to demand forecasting: instead it considers four possible future scenarios that embrace political, social, economic and technological change, using complex modelling techniques.

In two of these scenarios, total demand for water rises over the next 25 years, while in the other two it falls. The falling demand scenarios would require major shifts in societal attitudes to water use and the environment, and while it would not be wise to base a strategy on such changes they do illustrate the potential for further efficiencies in water use.

Our strategy is not based on a response to any one of these scenarios. We cannot commit to the worst case as this could result in huge amounts of capital being wasted on schemes that may not be needed.

You also neglected to mention the important role that demand management has to play. Further leakage control, more metering of households, the installation of water saving devices and the adoption of water efficient practices all form a key part of the strategy.

In choosing the way forward, we have considered costs, benefits, risks and uncertainties, and the contribution to sustainable development. The days of predict and provide are no longer with us.

Dr Giles Phillips, head of water resources, Environment Agency, Bristol

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