Unburden water companies to combat flooding

Reducing red tape and "other burdens on water and sewerage companies is one of the proposals in the government's draft Flood and Water Management Bill, published last month, which aims to help deal with flood emergencies.

The consultation document outlines ways for improving preparations for and responses to flood emergencies, and for better protecting water supplies during drought.

The aims are to:
  • Reduce the likelihood and impacts of flooding
  • Improve our ability to manage the risk of flooding by clarifying who is responsible for what
  • Improve water quality
  • Give water companies better powers to conserve water during drought
  • Improve overall efficiency and management of the industry
  • Reduce pollution levels and improve water quality
Environment secretary Hilary Benn said: "We can't stop rain falling from the sky, or make it rain during droughts, but we can be better prepared. That's why we are publishing this draft bill, which will help us better protect the public by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in flood risk management."

Benn said action had been taken to protect property and to prepare for emergencies, including setting up a Flood Forecasting Centre; providing £15M to local authorities to lead flood management locally and develop surface-water management plans; making a £5M fund available to households for personal flood protection, as well as £2M for improving water rescue, including funding for rescue boats and trained personnel.

"The setting up of the new Flood Forecasting Centre [a partnership between the Environment Agency and the Met Office], which was a recommendation of Sir Michael Pitt's report into the 2007 floods, will help provide the best possible information and support to existing flood warnings and weather warning services.

The draft bill also includes measures to better protect the supply of water during drought. Parts of England are already water stressed and the impacts of both climate change and a rising population will increase demands for more, or better, water and sewerage infrastructure, and mean that the management of water as a precious resource must be improved.

Proposals in the draft bill set out how the water industry will be managed better so that it can cope with these challenges and provide a better service to households and businesses.

The consultation process ends on July 24.

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