Londoners told to conserve water as drought deepens
London's mayor Ken Livingstone has called on the city's millions of inhabitants to take simple measures to conserve the dwindling water supply.
He said climate change, population growth and lifestyle changes are all placing increasing demands on the water supply and said London needed to make difficult decisions now to avoid shortages in the future.
"I want Londoners to make small changes to save water without affecting their quality of life," he said.
"Taking a shower instead of a bath or washing your car with a bucket and sponge rather than a hosepipe are examples of easy ways to save water.
"We will be running a huge public education campaign to encourage as many Londoners as possible to make small changes that will make a huge difference.
"We will be producing advice and practical help to get water consumption down in every London household.
"Water is a precious resource that we cannot afford to take for granted.
"Climate change means there will simply not be enough water reserves to support inefficient use in years to come.
"We need to take action now to better manage our water supply, so we can avoid shortages and mandatory restrictions in the future.
"Large numbers of Londoners want to do their bit to help the environment and there are many ways we can use water more efficiently, at little or no inconvenience.
"For example, garden sprinklers use as much in an hour as a family of four uses in a day."
The public awareness campaign will run on the London Underground and across the Transport for London network.
Top tips on water conservation will also feature regularly in forthcoming editions of the Londoner.
The campaign will include an education programme with schools linked to the London Schools Environment Awards initiative.
The campaign will take place in conjunction with Thames Water.
The Mayor also said he would be talking to the Government to change water industry regulations to allow compulsory water metering, a permanent drought order and annual hosepipe bans.
But the Lib Dem spokesman for the environment on the Greater London Authority, Mike Tuffrey, said Mr Livingstone's dire predictions that we could see standpipes on the streets of the capital next summer unless residents conserve water were putting the blame on the wrong people.
"The mayor has demanded Londoners change their ways but has ignored the fact that the equivalent of almost 1,000 Olympic size swimming pools of water are lost through leaky pipes in London every day," he said.
"It is staggering that the mayor has only now decided to start making predictions about chronic water shortages that could be facing London when these problems have been known for months.
"While steps to reduce demand for water, such as compulsory water meters, are welcome the approach to solving this problem must be led by the water companies.
"Serious questions must be asked about why Thames Water has failed to tackle the rebuilding of our leaking and crumbling water system, and why it is only Londoners and not the water companies who are being told to make adjustments to their way of life."
According to figures published in Hansard earlier this month, Thames is the most wasteful water company, losing 946 megalitres of water every day, just over a quarter of a percent of its total, in 2003/04.
This is almost twice the volume and percentage of the next worst offender, Severn Trent, which lost 512 megalitres, or 0.14% of its total, during the same period.
London's other water providers preformed considerably better when it came to leakage, with Sutton and East Surrey Water Company losing just 24 megalitres, or 0.01 percent and Three Valleys Water losing a still-respectable 152 megalitres, or 0.04 per cent.
Most of the water companies lost less than 0.02%
Mr Livingstone's concerns were echoed by the Environment Agency, which has warned of a similar situation across the south east of England.
The agency has published a wide range of easy-to-achieve water conservation tips on its website.
By Sam Bond