Water saving group outlines progress on action plans
Strategic long term thinking is essential to protect the sustainability of the water supply in England, a meeting of major water industry players has emphasised.
The Water Saving Group - which includes the Environment Agency, Ofwat, the Consumer Council for Water, Water UK, Defra, the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Waterwise - met recently to review six month progress against its Action Plan, which was published last October.
The plan outlines work in a number of areas to encourage the efficient use of water and so help protect the long term sustainability of supply. Group members work together on projects to ensure the package of measures taken forward is coherent and complementary.
Environment Minister Ian Pearson, chairing the Group for the first time since his appointment, said:
"The drought in the south east has reminded people of the potential hardships caused when the water supply is under stress. But drought is a short term problem. It is essential that we keep an eye on the long term picture too, and that is what the Water Saving Group is focused squarely on.
"Our water supply is limited and yet demand continues to rise. With the combined effects of climate change and a changing society we cannot assume that the way we use water now can continue indefinitely.
"Six months ago the Water Saving Group met for the first time to bring together expertise from right across the water sector, and to consider how best its members could work collectively to ensure we are ready for those long term challenges.
"I am delighted to see the real progress that has been made in this time, and the innovative work that has been developed, to help ensure the long term sustainability of the water supply in this country."
The work being undertaken by the Water Saving Group gives high priority to consumers and the way they use water. The Consumer Council for Water has led work on engaging with customers, to better understand their perceptions and needs. Following a review of existing research on consumers' attitudes and behaviours, CCWater will undertake extensive research this summer through a forum of 100 consumers, and 2,000 face to face interviews with customers. The research will allow customers' views to inform the future work of the Group.
Ofwat is leading on work to develop incentives to companies for improving the promotion of water efficiency. As part of this work, Ofwat is looking at the possibility of providing incentives to developers to install water efficient devices, by for example linking the charges that developers pay to a water company for Connection to the water infrastructure to the buildings' level of water efficiency.
Work is underway on new regulations to improve water efficiency in buildings. This will cover new and existing homes, as well as domestic water use within commercial buildings. The consultation on the options for new regulations will be published by DCLG and Defra this summer.
The Group has also looked at opportunities for greater penetration of metering in areas of water stress. Ongoing work has included the development of ideas to streamline the process for water companies in water stressed areas to introduce compulsory water metering, which fed into the discussions on 1st June between water industry representatives and Government. Lessons learned from the first application for 'area of water scarcity status' - when Folkestone and Dover Water Services was granted the power to compulsorily meter its customers in March this year - have informed these ideas.
Key to the proposals is the need to view metering as one element within a broad range of resource and demand management measures. Retaining regional variation to metering policy is also seen as essential, along with the need for public scrutiny of proposals and the protection of vulnerable groups.
There will be further updates of the Group's progress as it takes place. Philip Fletcher, Chairman of the Water Services Regulation Authority, said:
"We need to use water efficiently and wisely if we are to safeguard supplies for the long-term. Metering will have an important role to play. We will also explore how we can encourage developers and water companies, particularly in water stressed areas, to improve the promotion of water efficiency and deliver security of supply with best value for consumers."
Yve Buckland of the Consumer Council for Water said: "We are pleased that consumers' views, through our research, will be at the heart of the work to secure long-term water supplies for the benefit of present and future consumers.
"Consumers pay the bills that provide the money for investment in the infrastructure, so we are glad that water affordability issues will be addressed too." Dr David King, Director of Water Management at the Environment Agency, said:
"Water is a scarce and precious resource which we know we cannot take for granted. In areas where water resources are stressed we believe that paying by volume - compulsory metering - is the fairest way to encourage people to use less. We are very pleased to be working with the Group to make this happen."
Jacob Tompkins Director of Waterwise said:
'The drought in parts of England is not a one off event, it is a symptom of the long-term situation, we are simply using more water than we have got. Just because it has been raining recently it doesn't mean we can waste water. Simple actions like turning the tap off when you brush your teeth should be second nature for everyone in the UK all the time, not only when there's a short-term water shortage.'
Water UK Chief Executive Pamela Taylor said:
"No single organisation or group can ensure the future long term sustainability of the public water supply. The industry is pleased to be playing a full part in
collaboration with all the members of the Water Saving Group."
The high level Water Saving Group meets every six months to review progress on what has been delivered and discuss new initiatives.
Between each meeting officials from all the organisations represented at the WSG work together to carry forward the actions agreed at the high level meeting.
To contact the organisations represented on the Water Saving Group:
Ofwat: Peter Mandich 0121 625 1442
Environment Agency: Jo Fox 0207 8638635, 07919 548233
Waterwise: Jacob Tompkins 07793 709567
DCLG: Simon Hailes 0207 944 4299
Water UK: Barrie Clarke 0207 344 1804, pager 07623 960573
CCWater: Andrew Marsh 0121 345 1005, 07778 160803