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Water crisis predicted unless action is taken, warns report

Over the next 30 years, large numbers of households will have their water supply cut off for an extended period because of a severe drought, according to a new report from the National Infrastructure Commission.

The paper sets out a range of recommendations for the government, water companies and regulators to take in order to increase investment in supply infrastructure and encourage a more efficient use of water.

The reports says these actions will deliver a more resilient water supply and reduce the chance of expensive and intrusive emergency responses to droughts being required or homes having their water supply cut off due to extreme droughts. They also believe the measures will improve the situation for the environment and lessen risks for other users of water, such as agriculture, industry and power generation.

The report says the impact of losing access to clean, fresh water for even a short period is ‘unimaginable for many people and while the risks can never be reduced to zero, much more can and should be done to address them.’

The report recommends:

  • Ofwat should launch a competitive process by the end of 2019 so that at least 1,300 Ml/day is provided through a national water network and additional supply infrastructure by the 2030s.
  • Defra should set an objective for the water industry to halve leakage by 2050, with Ofwat agreeing to 5-year commitments for each company (as part of their regulatory cycle).
  • Defra should enable companies to implement compulsory metering beyond water-stressed areas by the 2030s, by amending regulations before the end of 2019 and requiring all companies to consider a systematic roll-out of smart meters as the first step in a concerted campaign to improve water efficiency.

Responding to the report, Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said: ‘The report backs up the water sector’s ground-breaking research in 2016 about the growing risks to water supplies due to climate change and population growth.

‘Water companies have invested heavily over the past three decades to improve services and continue to invest £8 billion each year, and we need to sustain that and encourage much more efficient use of water.

‘Everyone needs to play their part, and companies – working closely with government, regulators and customers – are currently developing their next five-year business plans to address the pressures we all face.’

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