Print this page Print this page  


from Water UK

theView from Water UK
18 July 2006

Drinking water

Chief Inspector's report confirms drinking water quality

The latest report from the Drinking Water Inspectorate shows that quality in England and Wales has again improved; 99.96% of tests in 2005-06 met UK and European standards (2004-05 99.94%).

The information reflects the Inspectorate's more regional approach to reporting to help customers and communities see more easily how quality is assured in their areas. By choosing to launch Drinking Water 2005 at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Chief Inspector Jeni Colbourne signalled the vital connection between our high quality drinking water, public health and individual well-being. As last week’s Guardian feature on "acetasting" tap water put it, "Water is integral to health."

The 2005 report – based on almost 4.5 million tests of drinking water taken over a year – demonstrates in quality terms the return on £2.3 billion water company investment in improvements to treatment works and replacement or renewal of water mains since 2000. It also includes, for the first time, specific measures of consumer contacts, providing the industry with more insight into consumer expectations.

Water UK press release

Think before you drink
The Guardian 13/07/06

Contact: Phill Mills


Going the distance: how tap water fuelled Sport Relief 2006

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people throughout the UK took part in the Sport Relief Mile, helping raise millions of pounds to provide support for vulnerable people both in the UK and in the poorest countries in the world.

There were 15 televised city centre events as well as over 250 local versions.

Sport Relief first took place in 2002 and alternates with Comic Relief Red Nose Day year by year. So far Sport Relief has raised over £31 million and this year's total had already topped £12 million as The View was published.

The UK tap water industry was a main sponsor of Sport Relief 2006, with water companies supporting events across the UK and providing fresh water to participants and spectators. Many Water UK members also completed the Mile and raised money for this great cause.

Contact: Nick Ellins

Water resources

Planning future supply

The drought in SE England has brought to the fore important questions about the planning and management of water resources.

For example, not everyone realises that periodic restrictions on water use in dry years, such as hosepipe bans, are built into water company resource plans. The proper costing of investment plans requires assumptions about return periods for droughts agreed with economic and environmental regulators and backed by government.

If a consensus were to emerge for more insulation from the effects of future droughts (by providing for longer average periods between expected restrictions), it would be possible to change current assumptions. Among the implications of such a change would almost certainly be the need for greater storage capacity - including reservoirs - to conserve more winter rain for use in the summer.

One compelling reason for looking at this more closely is climate change, which is expected to bring more frequent droughts.

Water UK believes that future decision-making on these matters will require greater participation by all stakeholders, and particularly water customers and the public. Will the benefits of less frequent restrictions outweigh the costs of the additional investment? Will people be happy to pay for facilities that may be needed only occasionally? There are no easy answers. A wider debate that helps raise awareness of issues that affect everyone's quality of life is now needed.

Contact: Barrie Clarke or Bruce Horton

The heat is on but measures are working

The warm weather is the best test yet of water company drought plans. Early evidence suggests they are working.

After one of the wettest Mays for many years, June was warm and dry and the forecast for the rest of the summer is more of the same. Great news for holidaymakers and those able to get out and about; not so good for water supplies in drought-affected south-east England.

In its multi-dimensional response the industry has brought extra supplies on stream, stepped up water-saving campaigns and introduced targeted restrictions. The activity is in line with drought plans, which companies have produced for many years and are now statutory under Water Act 2003. The results are encouraging. Daily demand on depleted resources is down by as much as 10% on this time last year.

Water companies in the South East are working closely with the Environment Agency in a coordinated water efficiency campaign. Everyone has a part to play in reducing the amount of water wasted – business, industry, customers and, of course, the water companies themselves. As the warm weather continues, the message is: drink it, don’t waste it.

Drought update

Contact: Bruce Horton


Support for biosolids recycling

The recycling of biosolids is considered the Best Practicable Environmental Option, supported and controlled by European and UK regulations, yet the practice accounts for less than 5% of organic materials applied to land.

Biosolids (treated sewage sludge) provides a sustainable source of nutrients to soil and improves soil structure and drainage capacity, with no known evidence of risk to health.

To assure stakeholders and customers, the UK wastewater industry has adopted practices that go beyond current regulatory requirements. Further statutory support, through Defra, would help confirm biosolids recycling as the most sustainable option.

Water UK has now updated and published a comprehensive briefing pack to inform farmers, buyers, regulators and stakeholders about the use of biosolids on agricultural land and to bring them up to date with the regulatory and statutory framework.

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

Contact: Steve Ntifo


Developing a framework for Scotland’s water

Water UK's 'Sustainability Scotland' conference last month provided a forum to debate the country’s long-term water needs.

Scotland’s industrial, social and environmental infrastructure depends on sustainable water resources.

The conference, in co-operation with the Scottish Executive’s Environment and Rural Affairs Department, brought together senior stakeholders and leading industry figures to consider consumer relations, future financing, water for health and the impact of UK and European legislation on Scotland’s water environment.

In a keynote introduction Chief Executive Pamela Taylor said:

"Water UK wants this conference to be an opportunity for Scotland to debate the part water plays and could play in the lives of its communities. We’re going to look hard at the future and I’m confident we’ll come up with some new ways of making sure that the country’s most basic resource contributes as fully as possible to our economic, environmental and social well-being."

Find out if it worked. The outputs of the conference are collected in a report 'Sustainability Scotland' (pdf)

Full speech


Progress on SSSIs under habitats directive

Good progress is being made on Defra’s public service agreement target for 95% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest to be in good or recovering condition by 2010.

Latest indications show that 72.6% of land falls into these two categories, above the target of 71% for this stage.

Water companies are making an important contribution to this effort. Management plans and resources are in place for most designated sites and issues for the remainder are being identified and addressed in conjunction with English Nature.

This is good news, but to achieve and maintain standards for all SSSI sites will require a concerted ongoing effort.

Contact: Bruce Horton


the View...

The Consumer Council for Water published its first review of activities last week. In some ways it was traditional – bills, complaints, affordability, redress; and its publicity led on "complaints up". Consumer protection must always monitor performance carefully and hold companies to account.

But unless we are mistaken there is another strand here. CCWater expects to work with the industry to raise understanding. This is equally the role of a modern consumer champion enabling customers and users to be fully involved when the big issues (like the subject of our third story today) are debated.

Combining the two roles may demand courage from the Council's 'cooperators' and restraint from its traditionalists. But it will be the best way of adding value - and showing why a separate representative group for water consumers makes sense.

Send to a Friend

Related links


Drinking Water 2005
DWI Chief Inspector

Too precious to waste
CCWater review

Sustainability Scotland
Water UK conference

Drought update

Two years of below-average rainfall continues to affect supply

Sport Relief 2006

Money raised so far

Press releases

Drinking water quality report

CCWater review 2006

Biosolids and agriculture

Leakage in the news

Drink plenty of water


WFD briefing
Waste regulation - the way forward, 27 July, London