Water stress must be high on MEP agenda, say focus groups

Newly-elected members of European Parliament should put water stress at the top of their agenda, British Water has urged in response to forecasters predicting a hot, dry summer for Britain, which could lead to hosepipe bans for tens of millions of people.

British Water's Sustainable Drainage and Sewage Treatment Plant focus groups have been working with regulators, government and the European Parliament to encourage better water resource management, and last month's election results prompted the focus groups to press for immediate action to improve the situation, especially in the UK. A new European standard for water reuse is in the pipeline for the future.

With 72 MEPs making their way to Brussels over the next few weeks, British Water believes now is the time to look at radical solutions to a growing problem.

Mike Norton, chairman of the 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 rainwater harvesting and greywater treatment and recycling, which could save between 37% and 74% of freshwater.

In water stressed areas the amount of water extracted from rivers, streams and lakes is greater than in regions with a higher rainfall. In parts of Lincolnshire, the Midlands, East Anglia and the South, more than 22% of water for supply is taken from these natural sources rather than reservoirs, compared to 10% in other parts of the country.

Alex Stephenson, chairman of the Sustainable Drainage Focus Group, said: "It will take a pan-European approach to make a difference in how we use our water."

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