Inconsistent drought message ‘confusing customers’

The message about drought getting through to the public should be more consistent to avoid confusion on the subject, the water consumers' association has said in response to the Environment Agency's drought plan.

Initial findings of research conducted for the Consumer Council for Water indicated that customers were confused by the way water companies and others reacted to the drought, their responses “ranging from pragmatic and adaptive to anger and denial that there is a water resource issue.”

“Until relatively recently it has been easy for the public to assume that we have an endless supply of water in an apparently wet and rainy UK,” the organisation said.

“But climate change, two years of water restrictions in parts of the south-east of England and reports of leakage from the supply network are starting to challenge these views,” CC Water said.

The organisation called for clarity in the Environment Agency’s plans for dealing with the drought as well as in public communications on the issue.

“It is essential that EA drought management plans are consistent and that messages to consumers about drought are clear, positive, engaging and consistent with communications from water companies.

“These plans, which underpin EA management and co-ordination of drought activities in England and Wales, should ensure that the process is seamless and effective for consumers,” CCWater said.

It also urged water companies to work together with the Environment Agency and other relevant bodies to avoid drought and water shortages, and where this is not possible to minimise their effects on consumers and the environment.

Companies should also consider lessons from regions of the country that have been hit by drought, CCWater said:

“For example, we have had very positive feedback from our Southern and Thames committees about the South East England drought management meetings.

“These brought together water companies and EA representatives from the southeast and east of England to look at drought across company boundaries and enabled co-ordination from the highest level,” CCWater said.

Goska Romanowicz

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