Increase water bills, says Lords

Government must allow the cost of water to increase and act faster than the Water White Paper suggests - if the UK is to protect its dwindling water resources.

That’s according to a Lords Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment EU Sub-Committee report released today (May 2), which finds that Europe is not doing enough to safeguard its water quality and availability in the UK and many areas of Europe, which are already suffering from drought.

The committee states that reform of the water abstraction regime, as outlined in the Water White Paper, can’t wait, and calls for the Government to bring forward the mid to late 2020s deadline urgently.

It also calls for the EU to take the impact of climate change into account and start planning immediately for a future in which water resources will become increasingly uncertain.

Raising the cost of water bills is also needed, it argues, to tackle water scarcity where other measures have failed.

Chair of the Committee, Lord Carter of Coles, said: “The issue of water scarcity is becoming increasingly urgent. Having taken our water resources for granted for so long, we must start looking at ways in which we can protect the quality and availability of water resources in the face of challenges such as climate change and population growth.

“Governments across the EU need to act decisively, and grasp the nettle of allowing the cost of water to rise where other measures fail to overcome water scarcity. Here in the UK, the Government cannot wait 15 years to reform the water abstraction regime when it is clear that over-abstraction is already doing ecological damage to more than one in 10 of our rivers.”

“We welcome the Government’s support of the ‘catchment management’ pilot schemes that are already running, which foster local involvement and will help to safeguard water resources. Price increases may well be an inevitable part of helping to secure our water supplies in the future.

To prepare for potential future droughts, the committee concludes by saying that all EU member states should develop national water scarcity and drought management plans.

Carys Matthews

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