Government reveals water strategy

Widespread water metering, plans to phase out phosphates from cleaning products and new planning rules to reduce storm water run-off are just a few of the issues tackled in the Government's new water strategy for England.

Environment secretary Hilary Benn said there should be ‘near universal’ metering in areas of potential water scarcity by 2030 and outlined plans to force homeowners to apply for planning permission if they wished to pave over their front gardens with non-permeable materials, reducing the risk of surface water flooding.

The strategy also looks at the way water is abstracted by the utility companies, industry and individual businesses and proposes a ban on phosphates in detergents, mirroring similar schemes elsewhere in the EU.

Metering reduces domestic water consumption by an average of 10%, said the Minister, which would help meet the strategy’s target of cutting individuals’ daily consumption of water from 150 litres to 130 litres.

An independent review will look at the different options available for increasing the uptake of metering – focusing on how to rapidly increase the number of properties being metered while ensuring it is done fairly and low income households do not struggle to pay for water.

“The independent review will assess the effectiveness and fairness of different methods of charging, including metering and tariffs,” said Mr Benn.

“Our system of charging, based largely on the value of people’s homes 35 years ago, is archaic and rife with anomalies.

“We need a fairer system that offers incentives to conserve water. In areas of serious water stress it’s pretty clear that this will mean universal water metering before 2030.

“The review will consider how to protect vulnerable groups, like those on low incomes and the elderly.”

The strategy also announces plans to bring water companies into the national Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme which sets targets for industry to reduce its emissions and how more accurate flood risk modelling could be carried out.

The strategy can be found in full at

Sam Bond

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