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from Water UK

theView from Water UK
1 October 2007

Climate change

Climate change in mainstream planning

The water industry is in the front line against climate change. Its services are the foundations of normal life. Its raw material depends directly on the climate and the environment. The Water UK Climate Conference assessed the scale and complexity of the threat.

Mitigation and adaptation present the industry, its regulators and society itself with challenges and choices. We need to reduce our use of energy, make our infrastructure more resilient and ensure that our costs are affordable.

In a keynote speech Pamela Taylor, Chief Executive, showed why water companies are among the first sectors to embed the implications of climate change into mainstream business planning.

Full speech:
The water industry’s response to climate change(pdf)
Climate Change Conference
26 September 2007

Contact: Bruce Horton or Barrie Clarke


Financial performance and investment

Summing up the financial performance and expenditure of water companies in England and Wales in 2006-07, Ofwat reports that "companies are continuing to invest to deliver environmental and quality improvement".

The regulator demands improvements but this strong investment performance is undoubtedly good news for customers, investors and the environment. Drinking water quality is virtually perfect; rivers are cleaner than ever; efficiencies deliver value for money; and investors have confidence in the industry's success.

In the two decades following privatisation of the water and sewerage companies in 1989 the water industry in England and Wales is on course to invest nearly £70 billion in the country's environment and quality of life.

Read the report:
Financial performance and expenditure of the water
companies in England and Wales 2006-07 report

Contact: Barrie Clarke

Water environment

Farm subsidies and pollution

For decades the direction of policy has been towards intensive farming, heavily subsidised by the tax-payer. Among the results of this have been the over-use of chemicals and water pollution from agriculture. In the face of climate change and other pressures, a new direction is needed.

Water UK supports the steps the European Commission and Defra are taking to de-couple farm production from levels of subsidy payments and CAP reform.

Proposals in the current Defra consultations on Diffuse Pollution from Agriculture, implementation of the Nitrates Directive and the Revised Code of Good Agricultural Practice are welcome.

However, Water UK thinks more should be done to encourage the agriculture sector to implement the polluter pays and cost recovery principles required by the Water Framework Directive.

Farmers provide vital land management services. This should be properly recognised but they should no longer be paid to pollute. Steps are needed to end the cross subsidy involved in the clean-up of agricultural pollution by the water sector.

Relying on 'end-of-pipe' solutions from water companies is effectively short-term 'pollution-swapping', as we are learning from the emerging impacts of climate change.

Contact: Steve Ntifo

Water resources

Water-saving targets need more thought

Ofwat proposals for water efficiency targets sent to water companies half way through a planning year are not well-supported by evidence.

The industry is fully committed to promoting water efficiency and is funding many large scale projects to identify the most effective and efficient means.

Water UK believes there would be merit in targets to manage consumer demand involving a range of stakeholders. But any measures must recognise the limits of individual water companies’ ability to influence demand. Other issues that need to be taken into account include uncertainty, costs and impacts on customers, and the impact of seasonal and climatic variations.

Only by considering all these and other factors and by fully consulting with all stakeholders can water efficiency initiatives, including targets, be made to work.

Contact: Bruce Horton

Development & Planning

Water in a culture of innovation

Water UK's Innovation Forum in partnership with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform touched on every link in the supply chain in the search for cost and carbon efficiency.

The most important part of the industry's record in recent years has been its efforts – often against the odds – to improve the supply infrastructure.

Pamela Taylor, Chief Executive, in a keynote address, said that this might not be everyone's view. But the great improvements in reliability said it all. In one of the most serious droughts in a century the impact on the economy and people generally had been very small.

The background was the ability of the industry to learn from previous droughts by designing and constructing better local networks. Companies can be confident that they will be able to meet present challenges – including the new-style water resource management plans.

Full speech:
Delivering the twin-track approach through a collaboration and innovation

Water UK press release

Contact: Bruce Horton


Spotlight on progress in 2006

In 2006 water companies in England and Wales continued to make progress in their relentless drive towards better environmental protection, according to the latest 'Spotlight' report from the Environment Agency.

Putting the brakes on climate change, the annual report on the businesses the Agency regulates, highlights improved performance but a pressing need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Water UK is pleased that the sector has contributed to a positive national picture but recognises that the battle for superior results demands a constant effort to improve.

Spotlight 2006 report

Water UK press release

Contact: Steve Ntifo


Hydration toolkit for hospitals and healthcare

The Hydration Toolkit for Hospitals and Healthcare was launched in September as a resource within the Royal College of Nursing Nutrition Now campaign – for nurses, healthcare workers, caterers and other service providers.

This toolkit has been developed to help protect the well-being and safety of patients by encouraging hydration best practice in the hospital environment. It provides practical advice on how to minimise the risk and potential harm that poor hydration can cause, and offers solutions to improving the provision of water to patients in hospitals.

Hospitals toolkit

Contact: Nick Ellins


the View...

It is hard in a few words to do justice to the massive report of the Conservative Party Quality of Life commission. The authors are keen to claim the environment as natural party territory. So it may be, but the report is still a remarkable step away from what we have come to know as traditional Conservative concerns.

Green groups purred but asked about implementation. Other commissions stayed quiet. The shadow cabinet decides what will and will not be party policy.

Water UK loves the idea of "slow water" at the heart of the water chapter. If, as you read, an Elgar or Vaughan Williams adagio seems to catch the breeze, do not be deceived. This is a notion that is rapidly winning converts (and the title of an event staged by Royal College of Design students whose normal listening is probably not the lark ascending).

Also music to our ears is a statement we have never heard made so well: "We need a clear policy that recognises clean available water as a key product of the farming system..."

We share too the view that uncoordinated regulation is a threat to sustainable policy. But we do not agree that a proposed National Water Association to take over "all the relevant responsibilities of Ofwat and the Environment Agency" hits the right note. Far better for government conductors, through guidance, to insist on harmonious playing from the forces at their disposal.

Blueprint for a green economy

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Related links

Climate change
Water UK Chief Executive speech (pdf)

Financial performance
Ofwat 2006-07 report

Environmental performance
Environment Agency Spotlight 2006 report

Next events...

Private Sewers Think Tank
2 October, London

Leakage Conference 2007
18 October, Coventry