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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK

UK Politics

New rules to save water

New regulations to curb water usage

The design of washing machines and toilets in England and Wales will have to be changed under new laws aimed at cutting water consumption and improving its quality.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher unveiled the water-saving initiative on Tuesday. It includes:

  • The target of a 20% cut in the amount of water flushed by new toilets from January 2001;
  • Permission for dual flush toilets;
  • A cut in the maximum volume of water used per cycle in washing machines and dishwashers;
  • Tougher notification procedures to inform water companies of the installation of high water-using products;
  • Moves towards the setting up of an "approved contractors" schemes.

    Water companies will receive official notification of the new rules governing products which use high volumes of water - but it will be up to individual firms to decide whether to make metering a condition of having a power shower.

    [ image: Water supplies have faced a growing strain]
    Water supplies have faced a growing strain
    A massive increase in the number of home and industrial users, coupled with a series of recent droughts, has placed a growing strain on water supplies.

    The increased demand for water has heightened the risk to wild life and the environment. Increasing water extraction from rivers has often been disastrous for wetland habitats vital for birds, animals, insects and plants.

    Conserving supplies

    Fears that water-saving reduced-flush toilets might pose a health risk were discounted by UK Water Chief Executive, Pamela Taylor.

    "We are [now] satisfied that today's toilet designs using lower volumes of water do not jeopardise health or hygiene," she said.

    The regulations come into force on 1 July. Similar legislation is expected in Scotland.

    The changes are intended to conserve precious supplies. Metering in some areas could lead to lower bills for consumers if toilets, washing machines and dishwashers use less water.

    The new safeguards will also tighten up the protection of water supplies, preventing contamination of the main supply by the backflow from industrial and domestic users.

    Michael Meacher said: "The water regulations will not only protect our water supplies from contamination and misuse, but they will also ensure the conservation of water in both the short and long term.

    "They show that we can both regulate and encourage innovation, by taking a less prescriptive approach."

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