LONDON, UK, Apr. 21, 2009 -- The draft Flood and Water Management Bill, designed to improve how we prepare for and respond to flood emergencies and better protect water supplies during drought, has today been published for public consultation by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.
Benn is also officially opening the new Flood Forecasting Centre, a partnership between the Environment Agency and the Met Office, to improve the warnings that are issued about the risk of flooding.
The aims of the draft Bill are to:
* Reduce the likelihood and impacts of flooding;
* Improve our ability to manage the risk of flooding, by clarifying who is responsible for what;
* Improve water quality;
* Give water companies better powers to conserve water during drought;
* Reduce red tape and other burdens on water and sewerage companies; and
* Improve the overall efficiency and management of the industry; and
* Reduce pollution and improve water quality.
Benn said: "The terrible effects of the 2007 floods are still fresh in our minds, and climate change will only increase the threat of extreme weather in the future. We can't stop rain falling from the sky, or make it rain during droughts, but we can be better prepared.
"That's why we are publishing this draft Bill, which will help us better protect the public by clearly defining the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved in flood risk management. The Bill is about changing the law where we need to.
"We've also been taking action to protect property and prepare for emergencies, including setting up the Flood Forecasting Centre, providing £15 million to local authorities to lead flood management locally and develop surface water management plans, a £5 million fund available to households for personal flood protection and £2 million to improve water rescue, including funding for rescue boats and trained personnel.
"The Environment Agency has continued its work to improve flood defences and 433,000 people have signed up to direct flood warning alerts, with 124,000 registering since 2007.
"The setting up of the new Flood Forecasting Centre, which was a recommendation of Sir Michael Pitt's report into the 2007 floods, will help provide the best possible information and support to existing flood warnings and weather warning services.
"By combining the knowledge and experience of the Met Office and Environment Agency, we will see a big improvement in the ability to produce earlier flood alerts and more accurate, targeted information to our emergency services, local authorities and utility companies.
"This will give people in areas at risk of flooding more time to protect themselves and their homes and businesses from the effects of flooding."
As well as improving the management of flood risk by clearly defining roles and responsibilities for those involved in flood risk management, the draft Bill also includes measure to better protect the supply of water during drought.
Parts of England are already water stressed and the impacts of both climate change and a rising population will increase demands for more, or better, water and sewerage infrastructure, and mean that the management of water as a precious resource must be improved.
Proposals in the draft Bill set out how the water industry will be managed better to be able to cope with these challenges and provide a better service to households and businesses.
Publication of the draft Flood and Water Management Bill follows the Government response to Sir Michael Pitt's review of the floods in Summer 2007. In its response the Government undertook to act on all 92 recommendations of that Review.
>> Access the draft Flood and Water Management Bill consultation documents. The consultation will be open until 24 July.
>> Read the UK Government's response to the Pitt Review
can be found at
The Environment Agency has overall strategic responsibility for flood management in the UK.