Water supply mostly secure although some companies "could do better"
Water companies in England and Wales should all have sufficient supply to meet demand by 2010, even in very dry years, a new report by Ofwat has found.The report, The Security of supply, leakage and the efficient use of water 2004-05, says all companies are making progress in ensuring they will meet future demand.
However, it says that several companies such as Thames, the biggest company in England and Wales, and Folkestone and Dover, still have work to do to improve their supply position.
They will do this do this through a combination of measures including better leakage control, investment in new resources and encouraging more efficient use of water by customers, the report claims.
Thames aims to remove its shortfall by continuing to tackle leakage and other measures to enhance supply including a desalination plant on the Thames estuary. But the plans are delayed while the company seeks planning permission.
Figures released in July this year showed that, of the water passing into Thames Water's pipes, 915,000 litres per day is lost through leakages - the equivalent of 366 Olympic sized swimming pools or nearly a third of its total supply. Even this high figure represents an improvement on past performance though. (see related story).
Folkestone and Dover is currently awaiting a government decision on its application for water scarcity area status, which would enable it to introduce compulsory metering to reduce demand.
The report also identifies Southern, Dur Cymru and Severn Trent as companies that have work to do to ensure supply continues to meet demand. The three companies have all agreed plans with Ofwat which should see almost all their shortfalls removed by 2008/9.
The period covered by the report includes the beginning of the drought which has led to water supply restrictions in parts of south east England.
Price limits announced last year by Ofwat will enable water companies which face problems to carry out an investment programme worth nearly £1.7 billion to safeguard future water supplies.
Philip Fletcher, Director General of Water Services, said:
"Encouraging customers to use water wisely is part of each company's strategy to maintain water supplies. Ofwat will be working with other members of the Government's newly-formed Water Savings Group to carry out an action plan to encourage households to use water more efficiently.
"We will want to ensure that increased metering of household supplies is part of a cost effective programme of measures. If customers pay for the water they use they will have an incentive to save both water and money."
Building consumer responsibility was also the focus of a new body, the Water Saving Group, which met for the first time this week.
The group includes members from the Environment Agency, Defra, Ofwat, the Consumer Council for Water, the ODPM, and Water UK.
Commenting on the plan and the role of the Water Saving Group, Environment Minister Elliot Morley said:
"The Water Saving Group's role is to bring key players together to identify and implement solutions. The Government made a manifesto commitment to create a water saving body, and I believe the best way of delivering results is through this high level group. Between them its members have an enormous range of experience and skills, and an impressive resolve."
"No single course of action can ensure the security of the water supply, and this initiative is not an alternative to addressing other issues such as the problem of leakage - it is an additional effort to safeguard the sustainability of our water resources. We are cracking on with finding solutions to an increasingly serious issue."
With one third of all domestic water supplies disappearing down the toilet, and another third used for baths, showers and washing machines, the action plan is relevant across England, but recognises the significant regional variation in water supply and will target water stressed areas.
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency said
"Our water is in limited supply yet domestic water use is rising. We need to act now to protect our future. We cannot simply build our way of out trouble through increased reservoirs. With 35% of household water going down the toilet we need to make the community understand the true value of water and provide them with incentives to conserve it."
"This means actively providing clear information on how to save water. It means removing hurdles to water efficient buildings and appliances through water fitting and building regulations, a sustainable building code and appliance standards and labeling."
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