Headlines: March 10th, 2005

Householders and other water users will co-operate better with suppliers’ plans to manage future water shortages if they are fully involved in the planning process, according to the body which represents Britain’s water and sewerage customers.WaterVoice made the call in its response to Government proposals on drought regulations, which it believes do not go far enough in involving consumers with plans for dealing with periods of water shortage.

WaterVoice has welcomed moves towards better information on the planning process and to improve the consistency and clarity of the water companies’ drought plans. It points, though, to the lack of any requirement for companies to identify arrangements in place to liaise with customer representatives during any future drought.

Maurice Terry, the WaterVoice Chairman said customers saw reliability and security of supply as a top priority so there was not enough in the proposals to ensure their direct involvement in developing drought plans. He called for the regulations to make specific reference to WaterVoice – and its successor the Consumer Council for Water – as a statutory consultee in the planning process.

Mr.Terry accepted that proposals for drought plans related specifically to the public water supply but said water taken from the environment by water companies accounted for only 40 per cent of the total water abstracted. “No reference is made to the process the Environment Agency will follow for most water abstractors, operating in other sectors such as agriculture and industry. We expect the EA to be fair, applying the same principles to its guidance on drought planning across all sectors,” he added.

WaterVoice says much is being made of the need to raise public awareness on drought related issues through a statutory consultation process but for most customers, drought only becomes a matter of interest once it has arrived. Customers, it says, need more relevant, better targeted information than the proposed drought planning process will provide.