Friday, November 19, 2010

Weather forecasts should include Australian style updates on water shortages

At the moment the Environment Agency will put out alerts of floods or droughts, but people are not regularly updated on water availability.

Martin Spray, Chief Executive of the WWT, said people are unaware that many areas of Britain are in water stress. The crisis is greatest in the South East where at least 10 million people have less water available per head than those living in Egypt and Morocco.

He said regular reports on the weather would help people to understand the need to cut down on water use in their area when river levels are low. Ultimately, he said it would it would make water part of the “weather small talk”, therefore educating and encouraging people to conserve water when it gets critical.

“There is a perception that this is a wet country. But it is a wet country with a high population using a huge amount of water so it is important we inform people and find new and innovative ways to to do that,” he said.

The wildlife charity said unless water use is cut by 20 per cent in the next decade streams will begin to dry up or become polluted and important species like salmon, water voles and otters will be lost from many catchment areas.

The WWT has teamed up with 13 other charities, including the RSPB and WWF, to call for tougher measures on both consumers and water companies to save water.

The Blueprint for Water calls for water meters in every home in the South East by 2015 and across the whole country by 2020.

At the moment just 30 per cent of households in England and Wales have water meters, although the devices are common in most other European countries.

Water companies are likely to pass the cost of installing the meters onto customers and Government advisers have already warned that prices may have to go up to encourage more efficient use of water.

The Department for the Environment will publish a white paper in summer next year on the reform of the water industry to ensure a more efficient use of water and to protect poorer households.

Ten ways to save water in Britain

:: Waste less water – Reduce water consumption by at least 20 per cent through more efficient use in homes, buildings and businesses.

:: Keep our rivers flowing and wetlands wet – Reform abstraction licensing to reduce pressure on rivers, lakes and wetlands today and increase flexibility to adapt to future climate change.

:: Price water fairly – Make household water bills reflect the amount of water people use.

:: Make polluters pay – Make those who damage the water environment bear the costs through more effective law enforcement, tougher penalties and fairer charges.

:: Stop pollutants contaminating our water – Introduce targeted regulations to reduce harmful pollutants in water.

:: Keep sewage out of homes and rivers and off beaches – Reduce discharges of sewage into urban environments and ecologically sensitive areas.

:: Support water-friendly farming – Support and reward farmers who deliver healthy rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands, and provide a range of other benefits to society.

:: Slow, manage and clean drainage from roads and buildings – Create a modern urban drainage network that can mitigate surface water flooding and trap pollution.

:: Protect and restore catchments from source to sea – Protect, and restore rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands in partnership with local communities.

:: Retain water on floodplains and wetlands – Restore large areas of wetland and floodplain to create and link vital wildlife habitats, improve water quality, protect soil carbon and reduce urban flooding.

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