Spelman: Attitudes to water use must change

Britain faces a future of water shortages and lasting environmental damage with some rivers running dry unless attitudes to water use change, DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman warned.

Launching Water for Life, the government’s water white paper, Mrs Spelman said severe weather events, population growth and the need to grow more food would all put more pressure on our water supplies.

“Currently we enjoy clean water at the turn of a tap, and watch it drain away without a thought,” she said. “But parts of England actually have less rainfall per person than many Mediterranean countries.”

Making sure there was enough water for everyone was going to be one of the major challenges that the UK would have to deal with in the years ahead, Mrs Spelman added.

“We can already see the type of problems we may face, with parts of Britain still in drought even though we’re in December.

“With water expected to be less predictable as time goes on we all have to play our part in ensuring our water supply remains secure.”

Water for life includes long-term plans to ensure the future water sector is resilient, water companies are more efficient and customer-focussed and water is valued as a precious resource.

It recognises that water is essential for economic growth and that we must protect the environment for future generations, said Mrs Spelman.

As far as agriculture is concerned, the paper outlines plans to reform the water abstraction regime and modernise the rules which govern how we take water from our rivers.

It explains how we can improve the condition of our rivers by encouraging local organisations to improve water quality and making sure we are extracting water from our environment in the least harmful way.

It also announces plans to reform the water industry and deregulate water markets to drive economic growth.

Mrs Spelman said the changes were designed to lead to a more robust and prepared water industry, which promoted innovation and growth in the economy while protecting the environment.