Water companies must improve environment and reduce bills

Environment minister Michael Meacher has told water companies and their regulators that water quality improvement programmes, costing around £8 billion, must be included in their business plans for the years 2000 to 2005 and they must also significantly reduce customers' water bills.

“This is the biggest water quality improvement programme undertaken in this country, involving investment of nearly £150 million every month over the five year period 2000-2005,” said Mr Meacher. “At the same time we believe this is consistent with an average price cut in the customers’ water charges across the country of some ten per cent.”

The improvement programme includes:

  • completing programme to ensure that all significant sewage discharges receive at least secondary treatment;
  • accelerating the programme to improve unsatisfactory sewer overflows;
  • making further substantial progress in meeting River Quality Objectives;
  • meeting the standards set out in the new EC Drinking Water Directive; and
  • meeting higher standards for the use of sewage sludge on agricultural land.

According to Water UK, the Government is putting the industry under pressure on two counts. “It’s telling us to cut water bills while at the same time delivering more environmental improvements than ever,” said Pamela Talyor chief executive of Water UK. “That’s the kind of pressure which could lead to cuts in our investment programmes and delay much of the work we’d hoped to carry out – vital work necessary to keep the country’s water and sewerage networks in top condition.

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