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from Water UK

theView from Water UK
29 September 2006


Water high on the political agenda

In the past year 'the environment' has emerged blinking into the spotlight and a frenzy of publicity. Last week water and the water industry were even subjects of a full debate at the Liberal Democrats' party conference.

Shadow Environment Secretary Chris Huhne proposed taking a serious look at turning "failing" water companies into 'not for profit' companies along the lines of the Welsh model. The Lib Dems' definition of failing seems to relate mainly to leakage. This, however, is just one of many measures used to measure the industry's performance; on the vast majority all companies perform well.

Mr Huhne and his colleagues may find it interesting to dip into the most recent Ofwat 'Levels of service' report, where they will find, amid a mass of regulatory data, that for example the number of properties in England and Wales at risk of low pressure is now 0.03% (1990-95 1.33%) and that for eight years running, compliance with wastewater treatment standards has been around 99%.

Contact: Bryan Wallis

Water resources

Is Britain running dry?

Answer: no, companies have long-term water resources plans in place, but will seek to involve consumers more closely in a campaign to enhance the perceived value of water and reduce waste.

Addressing a fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference, Water UK Chief Executive Pamela Taylor said that long-term water resources management plans, prepared alongside regulators and government, had been in place for some years.

Speaking alongside Environment Minister Ian Pearson and chair of the Consumer Council for Water, Yve Buckland, Pamela Taylor acknowledged the impact of media and consumer reaction to hosepipe bans in south east England. But she pointed out that given the severity of the drought - one of the most serious in the past 100 years - restrictions on social and economic life had been modest.

She also spoke about the need for more consumer input to the debate on sustainable water management to ensure best economic and environmental outcomes; and the industry's work for greater consensus on the long-term direction of water policy.

Read Pamela Taylor's speech

Contact: Barrie Clarke

Think tank is half right on efficiency

The new Institute of Public Policy Research report 'Every drop counts – achieving greater water efficiency' will contribute to an already lively debate on how to improve the country’s use of an under-valued resource.

To their credit the authors recognise that increasing water efficiency is no simple matter. They provide a detailed analysis of an important issue facing society.

Some of their ideas make good sense, like the call for more extensive use of meters and the need for collaboration between many different partners. But in their calculation of water company expenditure on household water efficiency and their proposal for a Water Efficiency Commitment based on industry targets their case is much weaker.

Water UK press release 17/09/06

‘Every Drop Counts – Achieving greater water efficiency’
IPPR report

Contact: Barrie Clarke


Will any fluid do?

Just as there are good diets and bad diets, there is good hydration and poor hydration.

Keeping well hydrated helps your body to function, keeps you feeling fresh and helps energy levels to stay constant.

Yet some people advise that any type of fluid will do as a source of water. So does it matter what you drink?

Certainly we never hear dietary specialists advise that any type of food will do as a source of calories. It seems obvious that loading your body with caffeine or with additives and preservatives from sweet fizzy drinks can't be nutritionally the best option. They do, of course, all contain an amount of water and are fluids, but they also all have potential downsides for health.

Where formal guidance has been lacking over sources of hydration, the Food Standards Agency website now includes the following useful advice: “Water is a healthy choice any time... Water is the best choice for quenching your thirst between meals. It is totally calorie free and contains no sugars that damage teeth.”

Energy on tap: your guide to water for health, increased energy and a balanced diet

Contact: Nick Ellins

EU regulation

Preparing for the bathing water directive

EU member states are now working to implement the new bathing water directive.

The first key milestone is transposing the directive into UK legislation, by March 2008. Defra is therefore expected to consult on the draft regulations by March 2007 – not so far in the future.

In the meantime there is much work to be done to identify risks and impacts on bathing water quality (profiling), in particular from point and diffuse sources of pollution. Beach management strategies, responsibilities of beach owners (particularly local authorities), additional investment needed and integration of ‘Blue Flags’ should also be resolved.

It is crucial that measures needed to manage diffuse agriculture pollution under the Water Framework Directive are targeted to deliver the objectives of the bathing water directive.

Any additional investment required of the water industry will also need to be clarified early, in time for the next periodic review, in 2009, if the directive deadline of 2012 is to be met.

Contact: Steve Ntifo

Clarity on biosolids and waste

The European Parliament Industry Committee has taken a step forward to ensure regulatory consistency in directives on waste and sewage sludge (biosolids).

The adoption by the committee of an amendment requesting the exclusion of the sewage sludge directive from the scope of the revised waste framework directive will help ensure consistency, as a continuum of the provisions of the 'old' waste directive (75/442).

Confusion, which we have seen over many years, could have led to an increased risk of non-compliance with both directives, loss of the agricultural outlet for sewage sludge (as a result of it being moved down to the waste hierarchy) and a consequent increase in landfill and incineration.

Contact: Gaetane Suzenet

Water Framework Directive

River Basin Planning guidance

Defra's final guidance to the Environment Agency on River Basin Planning is a good example of true stakeholder involvement.

Input from the Defra national WFD stakeholder group was actively sought and efforts made to accommodate their views.

The guidance recognises, as does the water framework directive itself, that it will be necessary to extend some measures beyond the first cycle (2015). The Agency is encouraged to consider scenarios through the three planning cycles, up to 2027, as necessary. This is crucial if realistic and truly sustainable solutions are to be implemented without adversely impacting the climate or wasting investment through end-of-pipe solutions.

Contact: Steve Ntifo

Collective approach for tackling priority substances

Meeting the latest environmental standards to protect Europe's waters will require shared effort.

The priority substances directive, one of the daughter directives of the water framework directive, aimed at environmentally protecting surface waters, was published in July by the European Commission. The main challenge it presents for the water industry will be to ensure that its requirements and objectives will assist in and not add to delivery of the objectives of the WFD.

In particular, ensuring protection of water resources intended for drinking water abstraction through upstream control measures is paramount. To secure this target, all parties who have a responsibility must be involved. Only a collective effort will achieve sustainable water resources management.

Contact: Gaetane Suzenet


Progress on SUDS

Will the hurdles to the take-up of sustainable urban drainage (SUDS) finally be addressed?

It certainly sounds so from discussions at the recent meeting of the national SUDS working group.

The issues around the options for future ownership, funding, management and the current legal barriers to SUDS should be picked up in a Defra consultation document currently being worked on and due next year.

Defra, we understand, sees SUDS as part of its overall strategy on non-agricultural diffuse pollution. This is driven by the requirement on the UK government to offer a set of measures to the EC by 2009. Legislation should follow shortly afterwards, with measures, in place by 2012 - unfortunately in the middle of the next investment programme, AMP5.

Another part of Defra will in the meantime be carrying out a review of section 106 (Water Industry Act 2001) - the right to connect to public sewers and also the restoration of sewerage undertakers' right to discharge to private watercourses.

Contact: Phill Mills


the View...

Literature professors and major league Scrabblers know that 'synecdoche' is a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to refer to the whole. So 'grey beards' may be older men, 'hands' workers, 'wheels' cars. It now seems that some commentators are taking a similar approach to water matters. So assessment of the entire water service supplied at high and improving standards to 60m people is reduced to a single indicator: leakage. It is natural and right for those in public life to take a deep interest in the provision of essential public services, but some attempt at a rounded view is surely necessary. Otherwise a single aspect of their work may come to represent the whole - 'opportunism' for example.

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Related links


'Levels of service for the water industry in England and Wales'
Ofwat report (2004-05)

Water resources

'Is Britain running dry?'
Speech to Labour conference fringe by Water UK chief executive Pamela Taylor

Drought update

‘Every Drop Counts’
IPPR report

Water UK reponse
to IPPR report

Health advice

Water and soft drinks
Food Standards Agency guidance on fluids

Water as part of a balanced diet
Water for Health update

Recent press releases

Water industry is committed to timely capital investment

Environment minister to speak at leakage conference

Water grid report confirms doubts about need and value

Better picture of public water supply prospects

Welcome rain but no end to drought

Malnutrition and older people