Welsh Water should sell its water 'like oil' during hosepipe ban

A former head of Welsh Water has claimed Wales should profit from transferring water to England.

John Elfed Jones, former chairman and chief executive of the company, says water is a business and, like oil, it should be sold to make money.

It comes as Severn Trent, which supplies mid Wales, announced plans to sell water to Anglian Water, one of the firms which has imposed a hosepipe ban.

But Welsh Water said water transfer was too expensive and impractical.

Mr Jones told BBC Wales' Taro Naw programme, to be broadcast on S4C (Tuesday 21:30 BST): "What is fairness? Is it fair that Wales isn't profiting a penny from the water which is exported to England?

"In 50 years will our people look back and ask why didn't we invest years ago?

"It's about time we took this option seriously," he said.

"It's a lack of energy and vision which leads us to be in difficulties often."

A current hosepipe ban affects 20m people in England who get their water from Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water, Anglian Water, Sutton and East Surrey, Veolia Central and Veolia South East.

There has been a debate over transferring water from regions such as upland areas of Wales.

On Tuesday, Severn Trent announced plans were being drawn up to supply more than 100,000 homes in the worst-hit areas.

It aims to sell 30 million litres of water a day to Anglian Water, one of the seven companies that imposed a hosepipe ban at the beginning of April to help ease the shortage.

Pumping from boreholes, Severn Trent plans to flow water from sources beneath Birmingham into the River Tame, which joins the Trent.

'Extreme circumstances'

The water will then flow to Gainsborough, Lincs, where Anglian Water will take it up.

"These are extreme circumstances," a Severn Trent spokesman said.

"Severn Trent has been talking for a long time about water trading, but this is the first situation where we have been able to put it into practice."

He added that the deal would run for "as long as it necessary without impacting on our own customers' supplies".

A spokesman for Anglian Water said: "It is something that we are looking at in terms of doing business with a neighbouring company."

Despite demand from parts of the UK for water, a spokesperson for Welsh Water said: "At present it's not possible to move water from Wales to the south-east [of England] as the resources are not there because it's too expensive and it would not be a practical option either for environmental reasons."

However, one of the UK's leading experts on water transfers told Taro Naw that enlarging one of the Elan Valley reservoirs in Powys was the best option.

Civil engineer John Lawson also calls for further studies on the issue.

Image caption Elfyn Llwyd has previously said that Wales should receive a "commercial return" for water.

"From the studies that I have done in the past, the studies always lead back to the raising of Craig Goch dam if you need to have a really big new resource for southern England," he said.

"Until some further evidence is produced to demonstrate that this is not possible, perhaps on environmental grounds, then I think that (Craig Goch) would be the best way."

Taro Naw also examines the practicalities of future water transfers and also hears from Welsh farmers in southern England who are facing serious difficulties with crop production because of the ongoing drought.

Former National Farmers' Union vice-chairman Gwyn Jones, who farms in Sussex, who has invested £150,000 in maize production, said if the drought became any worse "there could be complete crop failure which would be really bad for us".

Water For Life, a recent UK government water white paper, urged greater interconnection in the UK's water supply system so that resources could be used more flexibly and efficiently.

Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd has said previously that Wales should receive a "commercial return" for water.

"I would be more than happy for the Welsh government to decide - in discussion with Westminster - we will supply you (England) with water, the Welsh people are fully in support of that, but there should be a commercial return," he said.

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