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from Water UK

theView from Water UK
30 April 2012

Water resources

April rains are very welcome but drought conditions continue

The rain over the past couple of weeks has helped to reduce demand and provide some relief to the land and our rivers, but the overall water resources picture is unchanged.

The April downpours are good news, refilling water butts, giving gardens a refreshing drink and generally reducing the pressure on the public water supply. However, after nearly two years of below-average rainfall in some areas, particularly over the crucial winter months, it will take more than a few weeks of spring rain for the national picture to change.

We will need an above-average wet winter just to begin the recharge of groundwater sources towards more normal levels.

In the meantime, seven water companies continue to have temporary use bans in place, and will continue to work with their customers on water efficiency and conserve the available resources.

Environment Agency briefing, 27 April

Relief from rain but drought conditions remain after successive dry seasons

Nick Ellins


CAP reform for the catchment

The water industry is exceptionally well placed to consider the benefits to the UK environment and economy that a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy could bring.

The passage of the current CAP reform proposals through the European Parliament in the coming months presents a unique opportunity to change the way the CAP is framed.

Agriculture ministers have begun discussions, including proposals to make almost one-third of direct payments to farmers conditional on environmental improvements.

The European Commission is also recommending measures to reduce pesticide and fertiliser use; pesticides consumption has remained steady or tended to increase, risking more contamination of European waterways.

If the CAP stays the same, it will be increasingly difficult to build on the good work of current catchment management schemes. We will be publishing our detailed thinking very shortly.

The Common Agricultural Policy after 2013
European Commission

Sarah Mukherjee

Measures to protect soil

The practice of 'sealing' - covering the ground with an impermeable material - is one of the main causes of soil degradation in the EU. It often affects fertile agricultural land, puts biodiversity at risk, increases the risk of flooding and water scarcity and contributes to global warming.

New guidelines on best practice to limit, mitigate and compensate soil sealing were made public by the European Commission this month and will be presented at a conference in May.

As part of the Soil Thematic Strategy, the guidelines call for smarter spatial planning and the use of more permeable materials, and they highlight the importance of tackling soil contamination at an early stage.

Soil degradation and background to Soil Thematic Strategy
European Commission

Conference: Soil remediation and soil sealing
Brussels, 10-11 May.

Laraine Alder


Tackling bad debt for rented properties

There can be no doubt that the current situation on bad debt in the water industry is neither sustainable nor acceptable. It already adds about 15 to the bills of all customers who do pay, including those who are financially vulnerable.

Water companies work hard to manage bad debt, but they currently simply do not have sufficient information on who is liable for charges, particularly for rented properties where occupancy changes frequently - and about 80% of debtors live in rented properties. This makes it harder for companies to tackle the debt problem.

To reduce the burden on customers who do pay their bills, water companies need better information, available routinely, for all rented properties, not just for some properties for some of the time. That's why the government should implement as soon as possible the requirement for all landlords to provide information to water companies on who is liable for charges.

The water industry will make it straightforward for landlords to provide information to water companies by setting up an easy to use website, but the alternative voluntary approach proposed in the government consultation just won't work.

Water UK response to Defra consultation on tackling bad debt

Defra consultation

Rob Wesley


White Paper - Efra committee to report

Water UK is looking forward to the Efra Select Committee report following its inquiry into the key issues raised in the Water White Paper. The report is expected in May.

The White Paper sets out the Government's vision for the water sector, including proposals on protecting water resources and reforming the structure of the industry.

It seems unlikely that we will see a draft Water Bill before June or July, and we may well have to wait until the Queen's Speech in May 2013 to see a Water Bill.

House of Commons Efra Select Committee

Dawn Waterman

Drinking water

Risks posed by shale gas extraction

There is a mixed evidence base on the risks from shale gas drilling, but some acceptance that they do exist. Although water companies would not wish to hinder economic development, there is a view that the risks to water supplies, and in particular drinking water supplies, need to be addressed.

A framework is already in place in the UK to regulate shale gas extraction before any activity can commence, and under current planning arrangements, inclusion of water companies in the process is not required. However, as has been demonstrated in recent trial sites, such liaison can provide helpful information to both the water company, in terms of updating risk assessments for their Drinking Water Safety Plans, and the gas extractor.

Risks to water supplies posed by shale gas extraction
Water UK policy position

Jim Marshall

Better regulation

Ofwat consultation on licence modifications

Ofwat has extended the period for engaging with stakeholders on its proposals to change companies' licences. This is not surprising, given the overwhelming opposition to its proposals.

The industry continues to be willing to discuss with Ofwat how appropriate changes to companies' licences could be made for the next price review, PR14, in a way that maintains the confidence of investors that has been so fundamental to the success of the sector.

Ofwat information notice

Rob Wesley

David Strang


the View...

The View from Water UK is a monthly update of news and water industry positions relating to our immediate and longer-term policy work for a sustainable water industry.

Water UK engages with government, regulators and stakeholders to provide representation and expertise on behalf of the water and the water and sewerage companies and their customers for the efficient delivery of water services, resources management, environmental protection and good governance, within an effective economic framework.

Individual policy advisers contribute to the newsletter and can be contacted by email.

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Related links

Water resources

Environmental drought
Water company action


Response to Defra consultation on tackling bad debt in the water industry

Shale gas drilling
Position paper

Response to the Department for Communities and Local Government consultation on Social Housing Fraud

Press releases

Water UK events

Resilient Water Resources
Innovation Hub 2012
Weds 20 June, London