Water customers have, since 2000, had some choice in how their charges are calculated and customers who would benefit from a metered charge can request a meter to be installed free-of-charge. Customers also have the corresponding right to revert back to an unmeasured charge within a year if they feel that it does not best suit their needs.
All water companies have drought plans setting out how the company will continue to meet its duty to maintain an adequate supply of water during a short-term water shortage. These plans are now a statutory requirement. The plans contain various triggers to initiate a range of actions at differing stages depending on the severity of a drought. One of the actions may involve applying to my Department for drought orders to restrict non-essential uses of water.
Water companies' plans for meeting demand were set out in their 25-year water resources plans, prepared in 2004. The Environment Agency reported on those plans in “Maintaining Water Supply”, which is available from its website at:
Water companies also have drought plans which set out how they will meet their duties to supply adequate quantities of wholesome water during drought periods with as little recourse as possible to drought orders and permits. The plans contain various triggers to initiate a range of actions at differing stages depending on the severity of a drought.
Water companies are responsible for considering the need for increasing provision of water in fulfilment of their duties to maintain adequate supplies of water. The companies' plans for meeting demand were set out in their 25 year water resources plans, prepared in 2004. The Environment Agency reported on those plans in “Maintaining Water Supply”, which is available from its website.
No water company has plans to seed clouds in its water resources plan. The merits of desalination on a significant scale are currently the subject of a public inquiry following Thames Water's appeal against refusal of planning permission for a plant in the Thames estuary.
The Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) sets price limits for water companies. In the price limits for 2005-10, Thames Water was allowed £279 million to renew its water infrastructure. This will enable Thames to increase activity to maintain its pipes, including the renewal of about 1,400 km of water distribution mains.
Under the Water Industry Act 1991, water companies have a duty to promote the efficient use of water by their customers. As part of the activities they undertake to meet this duty, many water companies offer subsidised water butts to customers as well as other water saving devices, such as those that lower toilet flush volumes. This duty is exercised regardless of whether a hosepipe ban is in place, though publicity advertising the availability of water saving devices is likely to be increased during these periods.
No specific new measures have been introduced within Defra offices in London and the South East since 1 January. However, water consumption at all sites is monitored on a regular basis and compared with targets set out in the framework for Sustainable Development on the Government Estate (SDiG). Leaks and metering problems are taken up with suppliers and appropriate efficiency measures are put in place to deal with other causes of high consumption.
All refurbishment projects involving Defra offices have included water saving measures. Waterless urinal systems and low flush cisterns have been successfully installed at a number of sites to provide consistent savings in water consumption. Percussion or spray taps or taps with sensors are also delivering significant savings.
These initiatives will continue to be extended to other sites across the estate. Other issues under consideration are the sub-metering of areas where there is a high water use, for example in catering sites and crèches.
As part of the World Environment Day campaign, water hogs were made available for use within Defra sites and also for staff to take home.
Defra's published responses to SDiG targets are available at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/sdstrategy/operations/partc.htm.