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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 04:17 GMT
Ten years to cure 'water crisis'

Bath Spa. Image: PA
The plan advocates allowances for water use and metering
Britain's water systems are in crisis and the government has a decade to put things right, according to a coalition of conservation and angling groups.

They are setting out a 10-point plan to make UK water systems sustainable, including fair pricing, slashing waste and upgrading sewerage facilities.

People should have personal allowances and homes should be metered, they say.

EU regulations require member nations to have plans for restoring natural watercourses in place by 2009.

The European Water Framework Directive prescribes that the ecology of rivers, lakes and wetlands should be restored by 2015.

For too long, we've taken water for granted
Fiona Reynolds, National Trust
"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity," the coalition's report announces.

"With the Blueprint for Water we, a coalition of leading environmental organisations representing some six million people, are calling on the government to act now."

Going with the flow

It is perhaps unusual to find conservation groups such as the Wildlife Trusts, WWF and the RSPB in league with angling associations.

But on water, they find common arguments, namely that Britain should:

  • waste less water
  • keep rivers flowing and wetlands wet by barring damaging abstraction
  • price water fairly
  • stop pollutants entering watercourses and make polluters pay
  • upgrade sewerage and drainage systems to avoid fouling of human population centres and sensitive ecological areas
  • support water-friendly farming
  • restore and maintain rivers, wetlands and floodplains

"It's clear that adequate supplies of clean water are essential, not only for our lives but for the health of the habitats, species, landscapes and soils we depend on," said Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust.

Water jug

"For too long, we've taken water for granted - we hope the Blueprint will mark the beginning of a concerted effort to put this right."

While advocating better management of natural watercourses is standard fare for conservation groups, they step outside their conventional boundaries in advocating fair pricing and metering.

Within two years, their report says, the government should publish a plan for metering every home. The meters should actually be installed throughout England at least by 2020.

It wants the government to set a consumption ceiling of 125 litres per person per day in most areas, and 100 litres in areas of scarcity.

By comparison, a bath uses about 80 litres, flushing the toilet about 5-10 litres, and a hosepipe 500 litres per hour.

The coalition will present its report to environment minister Ian Pearson in Parliament on Tuesday.




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