Environmental Audit Committee urges government action on water supply

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
The NAO has suggested that water supply in the south and south-east of England could run out within two decades

Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) chairman Philip Dunne has today (29 April) written to Defra to urge action on managing the UK’s water supply, after the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that parts of England could run out of water within 20 years.

In a report on water supply and demand management released in March, the NAO suggested that water supply in the south and south-east of England could run out if action were not taken soon.

In response to the NAO’s report, Dunne’s letter urges the government to act on issues such as leakage targets and water consumption levels.

The report warned that existing targets to reduce leakage by 15% or more by 2025 may be unachievable for some water companies.

“How does the government intend to monitor progress of water companies to ensure that leakage targets are met?” Dunne asks.

His letter also notes that Defra has left it to water companies to promote the need to reduce household water consumption, but states that “the government should lead on getting the message across that consumers need to save water”.

He mentions Defra’s commitment to announcing a personal water consumption target by the end of 2018, something which has not yet happened.

“When will the personal consumption target be introduced and can you explain why there has been a delay?” he writes.

Echoing the NAO, Dunne also suggests that Defra could coordinate a national campaign to encourage consumers and public bodies to reduce their water usage.

“How [do] you plan to provide stronger leadership to water companies, regulators and consumers to reduce the consumption of water?” he asks.

His letter welcomes a £469m investment to support water companies working together to transfer water between different water resource areas, something which could help increase the resilience of supply.

Commenting on the letter, Dunne said: “We cannot ignore the stark warnings outlined within the NAO’s report, which should act as a wake-up call that more must be done to prevent the country running out of water.

“Despite such a wet twelve months culminating in this February’s floods, this month looks set to be the most dry April on record in the UK, with forecasters predicting 2020 to be the warmest year since records began.

“From monitoring progress by water companies in reducing leakage, to showing leadership in managing consumption amongst companies and consumers alike, there are a number of important steps the government can be taking.

“My committee will keep pressure on government to ensure it is doing all it can to guarantee future water supply.”

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