Government under fire for weak stance on water metering
Support has come flooding in for a new report that slams the Government's approach to water metering as "weak" and raises concerns over whether plans outlined in the Water White Paper will be enough to stop rivers running dry.
The past few months have highlighted the scale of the problems facing the country, with a period of severe drought followed by flash floods.
This has raised serious questions about the growing tension between supply and demand for water in the UK. According to the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA), the Government's current proposals are "lacking in both ambition and urgency".
In a new report assessing the proposals put forward in December's Water White Paper to reform the UK water industry, EFRA concluded that policy was headed in the right direction but lacking in urgency and ambition.
"We heard persuasive evidence about the environmental damage unleashed by over-abstraction," said committee chair Anne McIntosh MP.
"The Government's current plans [to reform the abstraction regime by the mid-to-late 2020s] will not take effect rapidly enough given that our rivers are already running dry. The reform of abstraction licenses must be brought forward."
Industry body Water UK urged caution, however, arguing that abstraction reform will take time. "The emphasis should be on getting reform right, rather than artificial timescales," read a statement.
However, targets and timescales is exactly the urgency required, according to EFRA and others, both in terms of abstraction and metering. Indeed, criticism of future policy around monitoring was even more severe.
McIntosh said: "It's hard to see how the White Paper's call for water to be managed as a precious resource can be reconciled with the lack of any clear target to increase metering levels. Installing a meter is the most effective way to improve water efficiency, providing a clear incentive for householders to minimise wastage."
EFRA recommended that a clear target be set to increase metering penetration from 40% today to 80% by 2020. Politically, metering is proving a hot potato, yet recent research has shown public support for water metering measures - provided the Government ensures the system is fair.
In some areas, water companies have aggressive plans in place to install water meters. Southern Water, for instance, is almost halfway to achieving its target to install half a million meters by 2015. This will save 17.6 million litres a day with metered households using 10% less water on average.