UK water industry's response to the challenge of climate change

July 10, 2007
Water is at the frontline facing the impacts of climate change. Water UK has announced: a response to the government's Draft Climate Change Bill consultation; industry-wide guidance on assessing and reporting greenhouse gas emissions; launch of its water and climate change website. Pamela Taylor, Chief Executive said: "The water industry is responsible for around 4 million tonnes of CO2 every year -- about half a percent of total UK emissions. This is a significant amount for one sector...

LONDON, July 6, 2007 -- Water is at the frontline facing the impacts of climate change. Today Water UK announces:
• Response to the government's Draft Climate Change Bill consultation
• Industry-wide guidance on assessing and reporting greenhouse gas emissions
• Launch of its water and climate change website http://www.water.org.uk/home/policy/climate-change

Pamela Taylor, Chief Executive said: "The water industry is responsible for around 4 million tonnes of CO2 every year -- about half a percent of total UK emissions. This is a significant amount for one sector and it is rising year on year as companies are required to meet tighter regulations.

"On the one hand we're getting more efficient at abstracting, treating and supplying water and collecting and treating wastewater. On the other hand, economic growth, rising consumption and higher standards are driving energy use upwards."

Climate Change Bill
Water UK welcomes the consultation as a positive step in tackling the effects of climate change. We support the principle of target-setting based on carbon budgeting in preference to annual targets. The water industry is a heavily regulated, energy-intensive industry, with statutory requirements to supply water and wastewater services and to meet stringent health and environmental quality standards.

Thorough consultation across the industry on the government's proposals has underlined the commitment of water companies to action. Key points and suggestions raised in Water UK's response to the government's consultation on the bill include:
• All new legislation should be subject to carbon impact assessment. This is particularly relevant to the Water Framework Directive designed to improve the quality of all bodies of water. It has been estimated that the directive could increase the industry's energy needs by 50%
• Directives affecting standards of water returned to the environment after sewage treatment have meant a doubling of water company energy use since 1990
• A new approach to setting standards and incentives for companies to generate their own energy and use more renewable energy
• The Act should cover a basket of greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide
• Carbon budgeting over a 15-year period is important for effective investment in improving the environment

Click here to access the full response to the consultation.

Industry-wide guidance
Water UK is working with water companies to develop industry-wide guidance for the assessing and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.

This will put the industry at the forefront of sector-wide reporting and help water companies identify opportunities for improved carbon management.

The guidance will enable water companies to benchmark their emissions against each other and provide a checklist of areas to be covered. Also companies are producing or implementing carbon management plans that will take account of their carbon footprint.

Water and climate change website
Water UK has launched a new section of its website dedicated to climate change.

The purpose of the site is to inform stakeholders of the work currently underway by the industry as well as providing information on the effects climate change is having on the water environment. Water is something that we all need and everyone can play an important role in protecting this resource.

The website includes information on how climate change is impacting the industry and provides specific examples of what companies are doing to mitigate and adapt their businesses.

Collaboration
The water industry cannot meet the growing impact of climate change on its own. What do we need others to do?

The Environment Agency is beginning to look at the carbon impacts of consent and discharge standards. We need this to filter down quickly to local and regional level. At the same time, we need to work together to understand the drivers behind the risk-averse approach that companies tend to take on standards -- which means we may be unnecessarily over-treating much of our water.

Water efficiency is key to both mitigation and adaptation -- this is a responsibility of us all. A mix of regulation Incentives and voluntary action will be needed, along with a regulatory regime that incentivises the more efficient use of water.

Finally, we need legislation at both national and European level that takes full account of energy and carbon implications.

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