Prescott Holds Emergency Water Summit
The government has set water companies tough new targets to reduce leakages over the next five years. Its part of a ten-point package designed to beat water shortages. The Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott made the announcement at the start of a day-long "Water Summit" in London
The conference is being seen as a signal of the new Government's determination to
tackle the growing problem of falling water supplies after the two lowest
rainfall years since records began.
Mr Prescott told industry leaders and environmentalists that too much water is being lost from leaky water company pipes. He told the companies that they could face tough new statutory
targets for cutting leakages unless they take urgent action to repair leaking pipes.
"We want a water industry that recognises that its primary duty is to meet tyhe needs of people in their homes in their workplaces and the jobs they do," he said.
The ten point plan includes:
- Setting leakage targets for a five year period
- Legislating to ensure water companies have a duty to conserve water
- Improving compensation rates for customers
- Offering free water efficiency audits for homes
Mr Prescott called on all water company bosses to respond to his plan within three weeks.
The water companies also likely to be pressed to offer free leakage
repair services to householders and to promote "water efficient" appliances.
Environment minister Michael Meacher has said he will be working towards imposing mandatory leakage targets on water companies, backed up with the threat of penalties which will include hefty fines.
Mr Prescott said that Labour are against compulsory water metering for domestic use, but he said there are many thing that people can do to conserve water. He emphasised that there is a role for government, industry, the regulator and the customer, all working towards using water more efficiently.
The water companies were bitterly attacked by Labour when they were in Opposition, with chiefs condemned as 'fat cats' because of the high profit levels. However Mr Prescott said he had not called today's conference to "condemn or shout" at them.
Companies must do better
Industry bosses respond
The Managing Directors of three water companies outlined to the summit measures that are already underway to reduce the pressure on water supplies. These include leak detection teams, metering initiativess and moves to reduce consumption through domestic appliances like washing machines and toilets.
John Green, managing director of Anglian Water and the Chairman of the Water Industries Association said:" For those of us in the dry south-east we will be looking for new resources of several hundred megalitres a day, while demand management will only produce smaller savings."
"We believe that the only viable approach to supplying future needs is the twin-track approach of demand management and new resources," he said.