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Water UK response following roundtable between water companies and Environment Minister

Following today’s (8 September) meeting between water companies and Environment Minister Rebecca Pow MP, Water UK welcomes the Minister’s focus on these urgent environmental issues.

Christine McGourty, Chief Executive of Water UK, said:

“Water companies are at the forefront of efforts to protect and enhance our environment and share the ambition of Government to accelerate progress.

Collaboration between industry, government, regulators and other stakeholders has brought great strides in tackling challenges such as the cleanliness of our beaches in recent decades. A similar joint effort will reap rewards in continued improvement of the quality of our rivers too.”

 “We welcomed the opportunity today to discuss progress and next steps and are leading the way in innovative solutions that will bring sustainable improvements for the long-term, and benefits to all those who use and enjoy our water environment.”

 “Companies have stepped up with significant proposals to contribute to the green, economic recovery, have a key role to play as a founder of the new storm overflows taskforce, and are finding new ways of protecting and enhancing precious resources like the nation’s chalk streams.

 “We are determined to lead the way in the face of the major challenges ahead, such as climate change. The water industry will be the first to develop a joint plan to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 and will soon be unveiling our routemap to deliver on this ambitious goal.”

Discussion during the meeting focused on three key topics (storm overflows, water resources and leakage and chalk streams). During the meeting water companies updated the Minister on progress in these areas including:

Storm overflows

  • The vast majority of storm overflows are now monitored and companies are working closely with the Environment Agency to monitor the remainder as soon as possible.
  • Storm overflows are core parts of sewers dating back 150 years. Water companies, as owners of the “ends-of-pipes” from which overflows emerge, have been working with Government, regulators and those putting excess water into sewers to produce plans to reduce spills via the new ‘Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans’.
  • With new data available from overflow monitoring it is right Government look to accelerate progress by setting a clearer and faster ambition. The new Storm Overflows Taskforce, which we have worked with Defra to establish, is an important step forward.

 Water resources and leakage

  • In July water companies reported a record reduction in the amount of water leaked from pipes – 7% to the lowest level since records began in the mid-1990s.
  • The industry is on track to meet its commitments to reduce leakage by 16% by 2025, with a further reduction to halve the current levels of leakage by 2050.
  • As we continue to reduce leakage, we also need to reduce the amount of water we use. We want to help Government embed water efficiency in the day-to-day lives of our customers. The single most cost-effective and impactful change for reducing demand is to introduce a mandatory national labelling scheme for water appliances like washing machines and dishwashers, for example.

 Chalk streams and water demand

  • Many chalk streams and other sensitive catchments are clearly still feeling pressure during dry spells. Balancing the needs of people and the environment is a challenge that will only increase as our population grows and the climate warms. We recognise the need to act, building on the programmes many companies have in place.
  • It is vital we reduce the amount of water we use to lessen the amount being taken from sensitive habitats such as chalk streams. Our recent research on perceptions of water use shows a disconnect between the amount of water people think they use and the amount they actually do that 46% believe their household uses under 20 litres of water a day.
  • To tackle this unprecedented demand, Water UK joined forces with Waterwise to launch Water’s Worth Saving (WWS) this summer, a campaign to provide information, water-saving tips and advice to households.