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We are starting to see the importance of water: about time

The pressure on water companies to match the growing demand has never been higher. Fortunately the value of this vital resource seems better understood, says NCE editor Antony Oliver.
One ray of sunshine then suddenly water scarcity, storage, desalination and compulsory metering pop back onto the water industry agenda.
And it seems just a moment ago that we were wrestling with the reasons for and the aftermath of the 2007 summer floods - such is the cycle of both the UK weather and the UK water industry.
Well arguably you could say that it is good news that these issues are resurfacing. We do now seem to be getting our heads around the need to emphasise the real value of water and water management to society.
We need to. Economic prosperity in the UK is driving development and population in critical parts of the country and with it, putting huge pressure on the availability of vital water supplies.
Add this to the fact that, wherever you sit regarding the causes of climate change, it is clear
that the world's weather patterns are changing. In terms of summer droughts and winter floods we are very likely just starting to witness the fundamental shift in pattern.
And while there is a huge amount of work for water companies to do in terms of reacting to the summer floods and, in line with Sir Michael Pitt's review recommendations, investing in critical infrastructure protection and an overhaul of flood defence and preparedness, it is the need to avoid another summer of drought which is increasingly now on their minds.
To their credit, the water companies appear to have at last really embraced the new reality of the UK's changing climate within their business planning.
Their latest water resource management plans seem to be taking a very
critical look at how the balance can more effectively and efficiently be struck between supply and demand management. For the consumer it will raise some interesting issues and debates - not all of them politically popular.
Top of the list is the need to really underline to the public the true value of water and to continue to get across the message that demand reduction by everyone is vital if we are to avoid further pressure on the most water scarce regions.
The headline grabber will always be water metering - which of course is a very logical, if initially quite expensive measure through which water companies can actually charge customers for what they use.
There will be winners and there will be losers. But fundamentally the public really has to embrace the fact that water is a very valuable resource - a resource that we should not waste and that has to be paid for.
Also of vital importance for water companies is the need to tackle the supply problem internally by investment in leakage reduction and better supply management.
Clearly there is much work to do here for the water companies to demonstrate to the public that they do have their own houses in order - not least if they are to make a case for radical and expensive solutions such as widespread desalination.

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