“Lacking ambition and urgency”, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) today welcomes the conclusions of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on the Water White Paper.
CIWEM is pleased to see the Committee agreeing with CIWEM’s position that the Government has been weak on water metering. The Water White Paper, published in December 2011, lacks any target to increase levels of metering; but the Committee today has recommended that the Government take on board the level of ambition suggested in the Walker Review - of achieving 80% metering coverage by 2020.
CIWEM was particularly alarmed by the White Paper’s proclamation: “water is relatively cheap compared to many other household bills, and we want it to stay that way”. The document contains a clear contradiction: how can we value water and not take it for granted, but yet not pay a price for water that properly recognises its true value? CIWEM believes the fairest way to ensure this is to establish widespread metering allied to flexible and social tariffs.
Paying for what we use is not only the fairest way to pay for water, it is also the only way to build the clear picture of patterns of water consumption which will be needed to move forward sustainably and to ensure that water is affordable for all in the long term.
Politically, metering may be seen as difficult but recent research* has shown that the public are prepared to support water metering measures, but only if the Government takes the lead and if the measures that are introduced are seen to affect everyone equally, or in a way that rewards those who avoid wasting water and penalises those whose use is excessive.
CIWEM is also pleased to see the Committee calling for more urgency in the reform of the abstraction regime and the encouragement of sustainable drainage systems (SUDS). We look forward to seeing the Government addressing the Committee’s recommendations in their draft Water Bill.
CIWEM Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “The Water White Paper misses an opportunity to promote the retention of affordable water for all who use water wisely and to charge those who use high quantities higher prices than they now face. It is naïve to assume that people who use excessive amounts of water will change their behaviour to the degree needed through anything but higher prices.”
*Research by the Fabian Society, December 2011, Water Use in Southern England
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