Water UK reissues its call for Environment Bill improvements

Water UK last week updated its position on necessary improvements to the Environment Bill, with the draft legislation at Report Stage in the Commons.

The priority areas were: water efficiency, single-use plastics, the Office for Environmental Protection and Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans.

Water efficiency

Water UK called on the government to confirm it will use Clauses 51 and 52 to introduce minimum national water efficiency standards for water-using appliances, and a mandatory national efficiency labelling scheme on goods like dishwashers and washing machines. And to change Part G of Building Regulations to apply a ‘fittings-based’ approach to new developments, requiring all fixtures and appliances to meet ratings to achieve water use in new homes of 100 litres/person/day, with further tightening over time.

Single-use plastics

Under the producer responsibility obligations of the Environment Bill, Water UK said a scheme should be introduced to ensure that manufacturers of wet wipes pay the full costs of labelling, awareness raising and cleaning up blockages and pollution before 31 December 2024 to align with or exceed the ambitions of the EU Single Use Plastics Directive.

Office for Environmental Protection

Water UK said: “We believe to provide certainty the Bill should introduce a simple specific exclusion for statutory undertakers, or some other mechanism, to exclude the possibility of direct OEP regulation of private companies. If that does not prove possible, we propose that the Bill include an addition to subsection 5 of Clause 22 (on how the OEP intends to avoid any overlap with the Committee on Climate Change in exercising its functions) to introduce reference to other statutory regulators as well.”

Drainage and Wastewater Management Plans

The trade body called for the terminology ‘wastewater’ rather than the narrower ‘sewerage’ to be used throughout the legislation. It also said drainage should be recognised as a shared responsibility. “As written, the plans will exclude significant bodies involved in drainage and eliminate much of the potential benefits that customers, society and the environment could otherwise gain…There are, for example, large numbers of drainage assets that are not under the ownership of water companies, the management of which needs to be integrated into DWMPs.” As a minimum, Water UK said all other flood risk management authorities should have a duty to cooperate and provide information.