We all have a part to play in surviving this year’s drought, writes Water Minister STEVE DOUBLE
Right now, across the country, we are feeling the effects of a second heatwave in what is already the driest summer in over 50 years.
On Friday I joined the National Drought Group meeting with senior figures from the Environment Agency, water companies, the National Farmers’ Union and environmental groups. We discussed the impact of the dry weather on public water supplies, the environment and key sectors like farming, and the preparations needed as we move into drought.
We are better prepared than ever for drought and periods of dry weather. All water companies have reassured us that domestic water supplies remain resilient and safe. Some readers may remember the summer of 1976, or have certainly seen the pictures, but water companies are now able to get through a drought without the need for extreme restrictions such as standpipes or water rationing.
Steve Double, Water Minister, writes in the Mail on Sunday that: ‘We all have a part to play in surviving this year’s drought’
Dry grass covers a parched Primrose Hill following official droughts being declared in parts of England. Pictured on Saturday
That is because water companies have spent billions upgrading their water infrastructure and we have clear statutory local drought management plans that set out the steps water companies must follow to ensure domestic supplies are not impacted. These systems are working well, as they did the last time we had droughts in 2018 and 2012.
However, water companies must invest more to prevent leakage. We are losing somewhere between 15-20 per cent annually through leakage, which is not acceptable. Progress has been made but my message to companies is they need to prioritise customers.
The water services regulation authority, Ofwat, has put in place clear financial consequences for companies that underperform on leakage. If we don’t see the progress we expect, we won’t hesitate to take further action.
Hundreds of families in Surrey have been waking up with either very low water pressure or no supply at all today, due to ‘technical issues’ at Thames Water’s Netley Mill Water Treatment Works. Pictured: People queue for bottled water in Surrey
Action is also being taken by the Government and the Environment Agency to protect the environment and support key sectors, particularly farming, through this time. The Environment Agency is using groundwater sources and water transfer schemes to help ensure river levels are maintained, pumping oxygen into rivers and ponds to help fish, and providing practical support for farmers. We know it is a tough time for the farming industry and we will be looking at what further measures Government can set out to support it.
But we must all play our part. I would urge everyone not to waste water and reduce unnecessary water usage where possible. We know with a changing climate that we will be seeing more periods like this, which is why it is important that we all treat water as the precious resource that it is.