‘Water Shares’ will create mutual responsibility to preserve water, say experts

Introducing a new 'Water Shares' system which would see all water abstractors own a share in their local water catchment, could create a sense of "mutual responsibility" to preserve water supply, according to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

ICE said the concept of a new “Water Shares” option would also incentivise the trading of water during times of scarcity, claiming it could increase the value abstractors place on water, help to bring about more collaborative approach to managing catchments and ultimately help to provide more resilience to the water sector.

Char of ICE’s Expert Water Panel, Michael Norton, said: “The Water Shares option appears to have trading at the centre of its proposal, a concept we promoted in our 2012 State of the Nation: Water report and welcome.

“But its benefits depend on effective implementation, responsible management and regulation, and ensuring the system is workable for all concerned,” he added.

In its response to Defra’s Making the Most of Every Drop consultation, which aims to reform the water abstraction system, ICE said meeting England’s future water needs under current circumstances would become “increasingly challenging” and backed reform.

However, the ICE urged Defra to push ahead with a proper strategy or roadmap which sets out the objectives for the UK’s water resources and how these benefit society, the economy and the environment.

Norton added: “While ICE supports the concept of abstraction licence reform there is still no overarching water security strategy. Water use goes beyond the need for utility supply for domestic and business customers; the energy industry, agriculturalists and the environment all demand a share of our water resources.

“Abstraction licence reform would indeed form a part of an overarching strategy – however, without this strategy there is a risk that abstraction reform will progress in isolation and not account for other aspects of improving the UK’s water security, such as increased water storage, interconnections and demand management,” he added.

In June this year, the Institution’s State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 report will set out further recommendations for the UK’s water sector ahead of the May 2015 General Election.

Leigh Stringer

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