Ofwat proposals to combat unsustainable water use

Ofwat has today announced proposals to change the way it regulates the water and sewerage sector, in an attempt to ensure the sustainable management of water.

The proposals are part of the regulator’s ongoing consultation on how it plans to set limits on the prices water and sewerage companies in England and Wales can charge their customers from 2015 to 2020.

To encourage innovative practices, which can deliver more cost-effective services with less impact on the environment, the proposals focus on long-term outcomes.

Ofwat claims that rather than building an expensive treatment plant it could be cheaper and more sustainable for a company to meet environmental standards by working with local farmers to avoid pollution entering rivers in the first place.

In addition, the proposals aim to encourage companies to become smarter in how they value and manage water, ensuring costs are kept down, and water is available where and when it is needed most.

One way of achieving this approach is to encourage efficient water trading. This involves moving water across company and regional boundaries, from where it is plentiful to where it is scarce. Currently only 4 – 5% of water is traded in the UK.

According to Ofwat, another problem is that half of the UK’s rivers have too much water taken from them.

To protect the natural environment, companies should be encouraged to source water from where it does not damage the environment and they should be penalised if they take it from where it does.

Ofwat CEO Regina Finn, said: “We are living in tough economic times, and household budgets are under increasing pressure. At the same time, it is getting ever harder to manage our precious water supplies as the population grows in areas where resources are already stretched, and our weather becomes more unpredictable.

“The new way we intend to regulate will give customers a greater voice, and help to address the problem that some of our water use is simply unsustainable. Currently half of our rivers are having damaging amounts of water taken from them, and little progress has been made in getting companies to share water,” added Finn.

Conor McGlone

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