LONDON, England, June 6. 2012 – Prompt action will be required to tackle the UK’s water security challenges, including rising prices for higher usage, according to the civil engineering body, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
In its State of the Nation: Water report ICE said the recent droughts have been a ‘wake up call’ for the UK but the urgency and severity of the UK’s water issues is still not properly understood. It rates the country’s current water security as level 4 on a 1-10 scale.
The report said changing pricing structures to reflect the true value of water and building smaller but more evenly distributed water storage facilities across the UK will be crucial.
Currently most households pay only a £1 per day for unlimited water – the ICE said in the long-term using potable water for everything including outside activities like watering the garden is “unsustainable”.
It called for a 30% reduction of per capita consumption in homes (currently 150 litres per day) and discretionary tariffs that reward low usage with prices rising as usage increases.
To tackle the crisis ICE calls for the creation of a ‘UK Water Security Taskforce’ to deliver an integrated roadmap to water security by spring 2014, based on strategic plans from all governments. It said that if the roadmap includes time-bound steps the UK could be out of danger - at water security level 8 or 9 - by 2025.
To achieve this ICE makes several recommendations for change including the development of new water storage facilities across the country, the removal of regulatory barriers that discourage water sharing between neighbouring companies (see WWi article) and collaborative investment in new infrastructure, and the phased introduction of universal metering, with social tariffs to protect the poorest in society.
Chair of the ICE Water Panel Michael Norton said: “The single biggest problem is the low value we place on water. It’s currently much undervalued and provided to most of us without limit. The UN has rightly stated that water for health and hygiene is a human right and should be affordable to the whole of society, but it makes up only a small proportion of our direct water use (less than 15%). Everything else is discretionary and should be charged as such.”
ICE said that using recycled water to flush toilets could reduce domestic water usage by a third.
ICE acknowledges Government has made some positive steps in the Water White Paper (see WWi story) and the announcement of a draft Water Bill but urged it to deliver on these intentions without delay and within the context of a UK-wide vision.
The full report, including detailed recommendations, can be found here.