Cross-party report urges Government to champion water efficiency in built environment

A coalition of corporations, politicians, academics and public-sector bodies has called on the UK Government to include flooding and drought risks in its housing agenda, after finding that 129% more UK homes will be at risk of flooding by 2050.

The Westminster Sustainable Business Forum (WSBF) is urging Ministers to implement a “fairer, tougher and simpler” planning framework for housebuilders to increase water efficiency and boost resilience to flooding in the wake of its study, which additionally revealed that an extra four billion litres of water are estimated to be needed every day by 2050 to ensure that the water network is resilient.

“Building the number of homes we need has become a pressing issue – we haven’t built enough in this country for a long time. As we increase the number of new homes, we must manage water sustainably and efficiently on a catchment-scale,” report chairs Angela Smith MP and Baroness Anne McIntosh said in a statement.

“The government needs to ensure we are building the green, water-efficient, flood-resilient communities that will our children and grandchildren deserve.”

The coalition’s recommended ‘Bricks and Water’ planning framework, created in the wake of the Government’s pledge to build 1.5 million new homes in England by 2022, urges policy makers to “level the playing field” to enable best industry practice and support developers in delivering top water efficiency and flood resilience standards, WSBF claimed.  

The minimum standard on water efficiency should be set at 100 litres per person per day in order to make green infrastructure the norm for homes and communities as well as large business developments, the group stated. 

Two additional recommendations are set out by the WSBF, with the first being a call for the new post-Brexit environmental watchdog to be “truly independent” with sufficient powers to hold the government to account and provide leadership on water management.

The clause states that the strategic body should face the Housing Ministry as well as the Environment Department in order to spur the uptake of more sustainable building standards.

The second recommendation is for water issues to be treated on a sub-national scale as well as national level, with housebuilders, water companies and other bodies championing stewardship at catchment level under the guidance of the watchdog.

Wave of investment

In related news, the Environment Agency (EA) has this week revealed its Water Industry National Environment Programme (WINEP), which will see water companies invest up to £5bn in the UK’s natural environment over a five-year period.

The funding, which will be allocated between 2020 and 2025, has been requested to help tackle some of the biggest challenges facing waterways, including the spread of invasive species and low flows as well as chemical and nutrient pollution.

Water companies have until later this year to submit more detailed plans to Ofwat following the call to action.

“I want water companies to invest in the long-term future of our environment, so it is right that the EA is challenging water companies to go further,” Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, adding that the “significant investment” would support the Government’s aim of “leaving the environment in a better state for future generations”.

The Government expects the measures set out in WINEP to protect and improve at least 6,000km of water, 1,800 hectares of protected nature conservation sites, 24 bathing waters and 10 shellfish sites.

Sarah George

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