Water meters, quotas and fines to solve ‘water crisis’

Water meters for all homes and a "huge increase" in fines for polluting are needed to save Britain's rivers and wetlands, an alliance of conservation and angling groups has said.

The unusual coalition was brought together by the common goal of preserving water for people and animals, and came up with a ten-point list of policies outlined in its publication Blueprint for Water.

Government can still meet objectives set by the EU Water Framework Directive if it introduces tough policies targeted against water waste and pollution, the NGOs said:

“We are setting out a clear programme of action the Government must take in order to meet agreed European standards for water management by 2015,” said Paul King of the conservation group WWF participating in the coalition.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reverse the neglect of our water resources and freshwater environment. Providing enough clean, safe water is becoming ever more difficult and expensive and climate change is increasing the challenge,” he said.

On water waste, the Blueprint urged Government to come up with a plan for installing water meters in all homes by 2008, and for all the meters to be in place by 2020.

Policies should also set quotas on personal water use, said the group of NGOs, including the WWF, the RSPB the National Trust and angling associations. While each person in the UK uses 150-180 litres each day on average, this should be cut by at least 20%, with a daily water use target of 125 litres per person and 100 litres in areas of water stress.

Making polluters pay for all of the damage they cause and just a fraction is also on the agenda. Fines should reflect the damage they cause with no statutory limits, they said.

Paul Knight, executive director of the Salmon and Trout Association, said: “Britain’s four million anglers and the billions they generate for local economies, depend on healthy water ecosystems.

“Managing our water better has great benefits for wildlife, for fish and for jobs – we can no longer afford to misuse such a priceless resource.”

Graham Wynne, CEO of the RSPB, said: “Water, rivers and wetlands have helped shape our nation, our wildlife and the way we think about ourselves.

“Yet today many of our waterways are devoid of the fish, plants and animals they once supported, our wetlands have been lost and our rivers are polluted and over-abstracted.

“Unless things change the country will become increasingly parched and lifeless and we will all end up paying far too high a price for the shameful way we use and abuse our water.”

The Blueprint can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

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