Coffey undecided on national minimum levels of resilience


The government is undecided as yet on whether to set national minimum levels of resilience against drought. Water minister Therese Coffey (pictured) confirmed at a Fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday that she was thinking over the issue and talking to Ofwat about it but hadn’t reached a conclusion.

She was responding to a question from The Water Report on how the government would respond to a recommendation that it should set national minimum levels of resilience to drought, contained in a report published in September by Water UK. The report argued that while companies need to continue engaging with their customers on a local level, political direction on water company levels of resilience is a matter of public interest and public policy – for instance, because the availability of water to agriculture depends upon the resilience of public water supply which takes precedence in times of stress.

The study used the latest science and modelling techniques and found England and Wales are facing longer, more frequent and more acute droughts than previously modelled. However, the additional cost of making water supplies more resilient to severe droughts was put at a modest £4 per annum per household. This massively outweighed the potential impact on the economy of inaction, which is estimated to be £1.3 billion per day during the most widespread situations of severe drought modelled.

The report endorsed a twin track approach to increasing resilience, under which ambitious demand side measures are pursued first, followed by supply enhancements. A key feature of the latter should be water transfer schemes, ranging from local initiatives to strategic schemes that use the River Severn and River Trent to carry water across to the south and east.