In 2019 the Government carried out a consultation on measures to reduce personal water consumption. Today I wish to announce measures that the Government will take following our consultation.
The Government’s 25-year environment plan sets out our ambition for achieving clean and plentiful water. The Environment Agency’s national framework set out that an additional 25% of the current daily volume put into our public water supply will be needed in England by 2050 to meet future pressures on public supply1.
Water demand reduction is essential to support the delivery of our commitment. Water companies need to reduce the leakage from their network infrastructure and we need to support households and businesses (including charities and the public sector) to use less water.
Ofwat has set companies a performance commitment to reduce leakage by 16% by 2025 and water companies have gone further and committed to delivering a 50% reduction in leakage from 2017-18 levels by 2050, which is predicted to save up to 1,400 megalitres of water per day2. The Government expect this to be met and have required water companies to plan on this basis.
Business water use
Businesses use 20% of the total water put into our public supply. Water companies and retailers have worked with the Government, regulators, the market operator and Waterwise to produce an action plan to sustainably reduce businesses’ water use. This includes understanding how businesses use their water; greater collaboration in water resource planning; identifying and addressing regulatory and other relevant barriers to the delivery of business water efficiency; and supporting businesses to save water though information awareness.
The Government will make no changes to existing rules around when people can be charged for their water use through water meters.
Water companies in seriously water stressed areas may implement wider water metering programmes where it is shown within their water resources management plans that there is customer support and it is cost-effective to do so. Using the latest evidence, the Environment Agency has published its recommendation that additional areas in the south, east and the midlands should be designated as in serious water stress.
Metering programmes must nevertheless be justified by water companies and achieve customer support. This strikes the right balance between the need to protect water supplies and importance of water companies reducing leakage before expanding the use of water meters. This protects unmetered family homes from unexpected large increases in bills.
Water efficient homes
Today I am announcing measures that the Government will take forward to support water efficiency in homes. We will:
Ask water companies to develop a consistent approach to address leakage on customers’ own pipes, as, over the last 10 years around 25% of total leakage has been from customer supply pipes;
Make regulations to introduce a mandatory water efficiency label to inform consumers and encourage the purchase of more water efficient products for both domestic and business use. We will consider the potential to achieve energy savings, as well as further water savings, and explore how these can be achieved in a way that minimises the impact on consumers;
Write to local authorities to encourage them to adopt the optional minimum building standard of 110 litres per person per day in all new builds where there is a clear local need, such as in water stressed areas; and
In 2022 develop a road map towards greater water efficiency in new developments and retrofits, including the exploration of revised building regulations and how the development of new technologies can contribute to meeting these standards. We will ensure that the underlying legislation can, where appropriate, accommodate any potential future expansion of rainwater harvesting, water reuse and storage options.
These measures, along with the actions of water companies, will support the delivery of the ambitions set out in the national framework to reduce personal water consumption to 110 litres per person per day by 2050, without affecting the quality of life and the enjoyment of water used by households.
Waterwise has agreed to chair a group of industry experts, reporting to me regularly, that will track delivery of these stretching commitments.
This work will support the measures set out in the Environment Bill to further help us secure long-term, resilient water and wastewater services, making sure that we have a cleaner, greener and more resilient country for the next generation.