The Government has launched a new consultation this week based on the ways in which water companies prepare and publish their plans for managing resources, in a bid to ensure the long-term sustainability of the water supply. Water companies have previously produced resource management plans on a voluntary basis, whereas requirements of the Water Act 2003 will make them obligatory. Proposed regulations include measures on how the companies should publish their plans, the bodies to be consulted on draft plans, and a provision for water resource management plan inquiries to be held. "Water resource management plans take a long-term view, but there is no doubt that the impact on water supplies of the prolonged period of dry weather in the South East has highlighted their importance," said Environment Minister Elliot Morley. "Effective planning, informed by stakeholders views, will enable water companies to respond effectively to changes in the demand for and the availability of water, as a result of, for example, demographic change and climate change."