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from Water UK

theView from Water UK
22 August 2006

Water resources

Drought continues but situation stable

Threats to water supplies in South East England have stabilised, but this could change if a hot, dry autumn brings a rise in demand from current subdued levels.

Despite the hottest July on record and driest in seven years, peak-time water consumption in drought-affected areas has fallen by up to 15% with companies and customers working together to save water.

One of the most serious droughts of the past 100 years is the result of 21 months of below average rainfall. Key water resources in the region are at 70% of levels normal for the time of year. Groundwater sources on which the region depends for more than two third of its supply remain at particularly low levels after poor recharge over 2 dry winters. 2006 saw not only the hottest July on record but rainfall 22% below average.

8 companies have hosepipe bans in force, 3 non-essential use drought orders have been granted and a decision on one further order is pending.

Thanks to the response from customers and the efforts of water companies in making best use of available water the situation remains steady. Further restrictions this year are unlikely, but this could change if a hot late summer causes a resurgence of demand.

Contact: Bruce Horton


BBC flagship missed customer response

Panorama's coverage of water services left out core information - especially about the millions of customers who are complying with essential drought measures.

The flagship BBC programme broadcast a detailed account of the UK water sector on 6 August. It discussed hosepipe bans, leakage, prices, profits, customer service and perceptions, but failed to tell the whole story on the industry's record and regulation.

Panorama illustrated customers' displeasure through the words and action of the self-styled 'Hosepipe rebel of Chiselhurst' who had been hosing his garden from the start.
What the programme didn't say was that the overwhelming majority of customers have responded positively to the restrictions.

The producers concluded that the industry is facing challenges which must be urgently addressed if it is to regain the trust of customers.

It would be pointless to reject this analysis out of hand or deny that change is needed. But media reporting of the drought has put a spotlight on society's use of water and the complexity of the issue has surprised many.

What a pity then that Panorama missed an opportunity to understand and present the sector in a more complete way.

Comment in full

Contact: Barrie Clarke

Water resources

Do we need a national water grid?

New calls for a national grid must be assessed against high potential costs to the economy and the environment.

The Institution of Civil Engineers has added its voice to the argument in favour but on current evidence Water UK remains unconvinced.

A grid would be expensive to build and expensive to operate at a time of continuing high investment in a range of other essentials. Environmental damage would also be inevitable given the scale of works required and additional greenhouse gases arising from increased pumping operations.

Water UK believes that existing plans within regions and river catchments can ensure water resources to meet society's needs within environmental limits.

Contact: Barrie Clarke

National water grid? We remain to be convinced
Press release 09/08/06

Should the UK have a national water grid?
Water UK resources briefing paper

All-in-one shampoo helps save water

A Reading hairdresser's common-sense approach is cutting consumption in the salon.

Steve Allan is taking the lead in water efficiency by giving his customers the option to have their hair washed once instead of the industry norm of a double shampoo.

Mr Allan says that now we use less gel and spray and wash our hair at home more often there is really no need to shampoo hair twice.

There is an obvious parallel with hotels providing customers with the option to use towels and linen more than once. Steve Allan's initiative is one more encouraging step towards a society that takes responsibility for its actions and considers its impact upon the environment.

Sarah Wilson
Press release (

Water Framework Directive

The most cost-effective measures

A collaborative research programme to which the water industry actively contributes is developing methodologies and practices designed to identify the most cost effective measures in implementing the WFD.

One of the hallmarks of the water framework directive is its recognition that environmental improvements have a real cost and it must be minimised.

A collaborative research programme to which the water industry actively contributes is developing methodologies and practices designed to identify the most cost effective measures.

To facilitate planning work in each of the river basins - 16 in the UK - Defra is leading a preliminary Cost Effectiveness Analysis which will treat England and Wales as a single river basin. The water industry is working with Ofwat to produce estimates of environmental improvement costs for comparison with costs in other sectors affecting the water environment. Moreover, the industry will work with other sectors to determine the most cost effective ways of dealing specifically with nutrient pollution.

Contact: Jeanne Golay


Biosolids – regulations needed now

Sustainable development requires the right tools and measures. Revised Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations are urgently needed.

Use of biosolids (treated sewage sludge) in agriculture is the Best Practicable Environmental Option in most cases.

No one questions this. It is a safe, sustainable solution to one of society's most important problems and brings additional benefits to agriculture and ecology. The value of biosolids as fertiliser and soil improver and the quality of supporting science are all proven.

Yet the fact remains that UK regulations have not kept pace.

The revised regulations, which are expected to cement current practices at little or no cost to business, represent a vital contribution to sustainable development. They are a true example of better regulation in practice that would both protect the environment and health and provide a stable framework wealth creation.

Contact: Steve Ntifo

Biosolids and agriculture
Water UK press release 06/07/06

Biosolids briefing pack
pdf download

Key indicators of sustainability

Water UK records good progress in areas that define the water companies' stewardship of economic, social and environmental capital.

Towards sustainability 2004-2005, the seventh annual sustainability report, published last month, sets out how the industry is developing in key areas such as governance, strategic planning and management, the environment, society, employees, assets and finance.

Pamela Taylor, Chief Executive, said:

"The report shows how far the industry has come in a range of areas and highlights where more work is needed. It complements the UK government’s Sustainable Development Strategy, Securing the Future, and those developed by the devolved administrations."

Summary (8pp)
Full report (56pp)

Contact: Bruce Horton or Sarah Wilson


Spotlight on Business Environmental Performance 2005

Water UK comments on the Environment Agency's reports of environmental gains and improved water efficiency and looks to strengthen measures to prevent pollution.

Launching the EA's annual look at business performance chairman Sir John Harman acknowledged "some amazing things" business had done for the environment. Among these were improvements to rivers and bathing waters, now the cleanest on record thanks to years of investment by the water industry.

Considering the scale of the wastewater network pollution incidents are few, while compliance with discharge consents is high (just under 99%). However, where incidents do occur, water companies are committed to investigating fully and reporting the circumstances and remedial action at board level.

Water UK press release 26/07/06

Spotlight on business environmental performance 2005
Environment Agency report

Contact: Steve Ntifo or Barrie Clarke


the View...

Denying the reality of a crisis is dangerous at best; at worst it risks the bardic journey of no return: "Exit pursued by a bear". However it may still be allowable to suggest that not all crises are the same.

A new WWF report, Rich countries, poor water, questions the no doubt widely-held view that water problems are confined to the developing world. "The crisis in rich nations is proof that wealth and infrastructure are no substitute for protecting rivers and wetlands and restoring floodplain areas." The paper is well-researched and the point worth making. But "crisis"?

Countries reported in this condition include America, Australia, Japan and several in Europe. In their own interests they should not be permitted to take clean water for granted. But poorer countries are entitled to ask how their plight can be properly communicated when this most graphic of epithets is linked to water supply in the home counties.

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Related links


Towards sustainability 2004-2005
Water UK report

Spotlight on business environmental performance 2005
Environment Agency report

Rich countries, poor water
WWF report

Press releases & comment

National water grid? We remain to be convinced

Hose ban survey results "surprising and disappointing"

Panorama’s selective account of water services

Spotlight on business environmental performance 2005