UK water resources 'left to weather's mercy'

Flood waters of the Ouse The coalition says allowing conditions to lurch between drought and flooding is causing significant damage

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A new report blames the government for leaving the UK's water resources at the mercy of the weather.

The document from 16 leading environmental organisations says it took the wettest ever summer to avert serious drought.

It warns that another series of dry winters would put Britain back on drought alert.

The government said its draft Water Bill would build resilience into the UK's water infrastructure.

The Blueprint for Water report measures the Government's performance against 10 steps to sustainable water by 2015.

It applauds ministers' commitment to tackle unsustainable abstraction from rivers and wetlands, extend the use of metering at a fair price and develop a catchment-based approach to managing the water environment.

But it says ministers are still failing to produce a long-term, sustainable approach which works with our natural water systems.

The groups want much more use of moors, marshes and plants to store and clean rain water, instead of allowing it to run straight into rivers and thus increase the risk of flooding. This would help tackle droughts as well as floods.

The chair of the Blueprint for Water coalition, Carrie Hume, said: "Lack of action to fix our broken water system is a false economy. We cannot continue to lurch between flooding and drought which is damaging for people, businesses and wildlife."

The Blueprint for Water was launched in November 2010. The Government is scored every two years on its progress.

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "We know we are facing increasing pressures on our water supply and that is why we have published a draft Water Bill that will build resilience into our water infrastructure by creating the conditions to encourage innovation and reduce demand.

"The draft Bill will reduce red tape and drive innovation in the industry making it easier for water companies to work together to ensure we have secure water supplies for the future."

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  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    Not a simple solution, but with the ever increasing population we need more storage capacity aka reservoirs. Not popular but essential. This also applies to electricity; we need more sustainable power supplies. When the lights go out there will be an awful uproar and all the wind turbines will not suffice. There is a lot of visions, talk and bluster and nothing ever happens.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    Forget transport infrastructure we need an infrastructure to support water collection and distribution throughout the UK; grey water harvesting should be a priority on new build houses and the use of clean drinking to flush toilets is criminal waste of a resource that we all undervalue

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    @360. One pound in five earned in London subsidises the rest of the UK – Northern Ireland, Wales and North East receive more than a fifth of their income as subsidies from outside the region. London tax is 45.2% of GDP. The bulk of Stamp Duty Land Tax is paid in London and the South East. The 50p income tax rate is also largely a London and South East tax. Don't let facts stop you though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Is it just me or do the privatised gas & electricity companies only really exist so that the water companies don't look so awful in comparison?

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    We wouldn't have this problem if the water companies hadn't sold off over 20 reservoirs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    Why don't the water companies seal the leaks (30% is lost by thames). They were privatised to remove the cost of doing this from Government Borrowing.
    We also should be looking at using less water. Basic ration price A, escalating rates for more use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Perhaps re-nationalising your water supply would be a good idea. This is what happens when privitisation is allowed. You pay all sorts of money on an inefficient service that charges you more when they mess up (how incredibly familiar THAT sentiment has become) and the are providing something that literally FALLS FROM THE SKY!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    81.paT astles
    5 Hours ago
    The Conservatives should never have privatised it

    ..... The Conservatives would sell their granny for a quick buck. What I don't understand is that people keep voting for them (then and now). All I read is moans about privitisation of utilities but there must be a lot of you who bought into the cheap share giveaway at the time. Heritage lost to greed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    So lets just get this right.

    In January China wealth fund buys nearly 9% of Thames Water

    Then in March, at the cost of the tax payer the UK treasury give the go-ahead for a new £4.1 billion project to build a new sewerage system for London reducing their bills by £50 per house.

    Why should we always subsidise the SE??

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    Not a day passes without the Utilities making the news in some way, and its always bad news. The transfer of essential public services to the private sector was always going to be a disaster. Mrs Thatcher bulldozed these policies through, to create a 'share owning democracy'
    IHow many 'ordinairy' people have a stake in them now?. We will re-visit this scenario i'm sure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    When the water companies were first privatised there were many rumours that profits and share dividends were taking priority over supply infrastructure maintenance.

    It certainly seems like the infrastructure needs a major overhaul and huge investment.

    No doubt this will happen when water is re-nationalised and the taxpayer pick up the tab!

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    Another example of ignoring the problem of overpopulation and consumption of resources. Yeah lets blame the weather instead, its an outrage that it is not adapting to our needs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    This story is rubbish!
    I work in construction and over the last 10 years i would say 80% of my work has been in the water industry.
    United Utilities have spent a hell of a lot of money on countless reservoirs, water treatment plants and pipelines so to say they are not investing in our water infrastructure is rediculous.
    I can think of at least 20 big projects that i have worked on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    "We have to pay for massive EU subsidies and ridiculously expensive high speed rail links before basic needs like clean water" - might as well be a quote from our current common sense government.
    Surely these budgets can be raided to build pipelines from wetter areas of the UK and boost the economies of those (probably more northern) regions....oops just realised thats a good idea - won't happen!

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    This is what happens when a public utility becomes privatised, returns on shares becomes a priority instead of providing a service that is essential to the public.
    Charges rise whilst performance plummets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    "extend the use of metering at a fair price".

    Hopefully not in the same manner,& with the same level of success - if you can call it that - as they've managed to achieve so far with gas & electricity supplies price wise?


    Larger water bills coming our way soon-!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    China Investment Corporation (CIC), the country's sovereign wealth fund, has bought 8.68% of the company behind UK utility group Thames Water.

    Speaking about the deal, the Chancellor said: "This is a significant step by China. It is a vote of confidence in Britain as a place to invest and do business.No purchase price was disclosed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    The truth is the water comps are incompetent and been ripping us off for years. Government is useless and so is ofwat. We need to build desal plants on the coast and have a national water grid taking the water to the centres of poulation. The Romans could do it, why can't we???

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    Lobbyists at the UK's environmental NGOs can always be relied upon to abuse any report in order to twist it in favor of their private, aesthetic objectives. As can the BBC's chief environmental corespondent. Security of our water supply is perhaps the most essential thing we can plan for. Wetlands and marshes are not. Where is the plan for desalination plants running off wave/tidal power?

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    To be expected of essential services at the mercy of profit driven enterprise. The terms of reference are shareholder benefits, not for than those who pay the piper? Our utilities are loose canons and it still remains a mystery to me that we are told we can expect (claimed!) efficiency only from management when there are personal gain and greed elements guaranteed within the packages.


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