Parts of England could run out of water within 20 years, MPs warn

10th July 2020

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Hannah Thorne

There is a 'serious risk' that some parts of England will run out of water within the next 20 years, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.

In a report published yesterday, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) criticised the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) for showing a “lack of leadership“ in addressing issues threatening water supply.

The MPs highlighted how over three billion litres of water – a fifth of the volume used – is lost to leakage every day, describing the situation as “wholly unacceptable“.

Moreover, they said that “ponderous“ water companies have made “no progress“ in reducing leakage over the last 20 years, and that the government has failed to advise how they should balance infrastructure investment with reducing customer bills.

“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,“ said PAC chair Meg Hillier MP.

“Continued inaction by the water industry means we continue to lose one fifth of our daily supply to leaks.“

It's not just Defra that comes in for criticism, with all bodies responsible for the UK's water supply – including Ofwat and the Environment Agency – accused of having“taken their eye off the ball“.

The report argues that these bodies must take “urgent action“ now to ensure a reliable water supply in the years ahead, and urges the government to substantially step up efforts to coordinate increased awareness of the need to save water.

Moreover, the document calls on Defra to produce annual performance league tables for water companies, step up on promoting water efficiency, and to deliver an effective campaign for water saving.

“Empty words on climate commitments and unfunded public information campaigns will get us where we've got the last 20 years: nowhere,“ Hillier continued.

“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.“

Image credit: iStock


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