Pow passes over calls for new action on curbing leakage and consumption

In the same week when criticism of policy and regulatory action to ensure resilience in water resources was gathering momentum, the government has waved away calls from spending and environmental audit bodies to step up its actions on reducing leakage and consumption.

In a response to a request from chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne, for details of government intentions relating to curbing leakage and reducing consumption, water minister, Rebecca Pow, committed only to existing measures.

In a letter Dunne pressed Pow (pictured) for the government’s intentions to address shortcomings that featured in a recent report from the spending watchdog, the National Audit Office (NAO). He requested: “a response detailing what action Defra will be taking as a result of the NAO’s findings and the questions posed.”

On leakage Pow wrote: “Levels will be reported annually to Ofwat.” She pointed out that “leakage performance also forms part of the statutory water resources management plan annual review processes,” and that there are penalties for underperformance.

On the need for renewed action to curb consumption she wrote: “We have been working to build consensus on a target and the measures required to deliver it across government and industry.” She highlighted a government consultation on consumption completed in October 2019 and pledged “we will publish the government position later this year.”

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Environment Agency James Bevan last week conceded to MPs that the government’s inability to forecast total water demand was “a big hole" in UK planning.

Giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, Bevan described the 12 month-old Love Water campaign to convince water users to reduce their consumption in the face of oncoming water shortages as a “coalition of the willing” with no government money, funded by “water companies who wants to chip in,” and his own organisation. The NAO in its report had pointed out “other than a Twitter feed, there has been no further activity since its launch.”

Bevan accepted that “perhaps the most important” challenge in convincing people to reduce their water use was “changing the way people think about water and how they behave.” He asserted to the PAC members that Love Water was in its early days