English water companies 'average' for efficiency

England's water use is average on the international scale, but far below Australia' or America' per capita water consumption, a survey has shown.

The English use less than half the water Americans consume per person

The English use less than half the water Americans consume per person

At 150 litres per person per day, people in England and Wales are on a par with most Europeans but only use half the water the average American consumes, according to Ofwat's International comparison of water and sewerage service 2007 report.

In the report published on Thursday, the water regulator examines the way water companies across the world fare on factors like water efficiency, leakage, water prices, customer service to put the performance of English and Welsh companies in an international context.

High water use in America and Australia - the world's biggest per-capita water users - is partly put down to hotter, drier climates combined with high living standards where many see swimming pools and air conditioning as essentials.

High outdoor water use in the US, where 58% of all household water goes on watering lawns, filling swimming pools and other outdoor uses, is also a factor.

Within Europe Spain uses most water per person, while the average Estonian or Lithuanian is extremely water-efficient and consumes only two-thirds that used by the English and Welsh.

Water saving campaigns, devices and education effectively reduce consumption - as has happened in Helsinki, where water consumption fell by 40% over the last 20 years - the report found. Water tariffs can also be very effective and have helped bring water consumption down by 20% across Denmark and Finland, but metering is needed for it to produce results.

Ofwat also reported a "generally high" standard of customer service and bills in line with most other countries once state subsidies and other differences are considered.

Ofwat's Director of Network Regulation, Dr Melinda Acutt, said: "Customers will be pleased to learn that the service they get from their water company compares well with those in other countries. And we have found that companies in England and Wales are at least as efficient as their overseas counterparts."

The full report can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz



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