COMMONS

England faces “serious risk of running out of water within 20 years”

10 July 2020

In a report published today, Thursday 9 July 2020, the Public Accounts Committee says all the bodies responsible for the UK’s water supply – Defra, Ofwat and the Environment Agency – have “taken their eye off the ball” and must take urgent action now to ensure a reliable water supply in the years ahead. It concludes that the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has shown a lack of leadership in getting to grips with all of the issues threatening our water supply.

There is a serious risk that some parts of England will run out of water within the next 20 years. Over 3 billion litres, a fifth of the volume used, is lost to leakage every day: a situation the Committee describes as “wholly unacceptable”.

The report says Government has failed to be clear with water companies, privatised in 1989, on how they should balance investment in infrastructure with reducing customer bills, and says “ponderous” water companies have made “no progress” in reducing leakage over the last 20 years. 

The committee calls for Defra to produce annual performance league tables for water companies; step up on promoting water efficiency and deliver an effective campaign for water saving.

Industry action has failed, says the committee and government needs to step in and substantially step up efforts to coordinate increased awareness of the need to save water. 

Chair's comments

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“It is very hard to imagine, in this country, turning the tap and not having enough clean, drinkable water come out - but that is exactly what we now face. Continued inaction by the water industry means we continue to lose one fifth of our daily supply to leaks.

“Empty words on climate commitments and unfunded public information campaigns will get us where we’ve got the last 20 years: nowhere. Defra has failed to lead and water companies have failed to act: we look now to the Department to step up, make up for lost time and see we get action before it’s too late.”  

Further information

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