On 8 December 2011, the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (defra) released a White Paper entitled, “Water for Life”, which is described as a “call to action” and a “vision” for the future management of water resources in the United Kingdom.
The White Paper will inform the Government’s intention to publish a draft Water Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in early 2012 and introduce a Water Bill as soon as Parliamentary time allows.
In the same timeframe, the European Union (EU) will release its important policy response to current and prospective challenges facing water resources in the EU. The “Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Water” as this policy document is entitled could be an important resource when considering the White Paper as it is likely that it will overlap areas covered in the White Paper.
Whilst the key focus in the White Paper include traditional water usage and pollution issues, such as:
- tackling water pollution:
It is proposed to take forward the new “catchment-based approach” to water quality and diffuse pollution.
- tackling over-abstraction:
A proposal to introduce legislation to reform the abstraction regime early in the next Parliament, implementing the new regime fully by the mid to late 2020s
There are signs of new developments that may signal a reevaluation of water use through initiatives, such as:
- changing the way we use and value water:
Water efficiency measures are to be encouraged and incentivised, such as voluntary water efficiency labelling on products, the promotion of sustainable drainage systems and the provision of water efficiency advice and hot water saving measures via the Green Deal.
- affordability and bad debt:
Draft guidance has been published by defra for both water companies and OFWAT (the Water Services Regulation Authority) in relation to social tariffs for those having problems paying their bills;
- supporting growth and innovation:
It is proposed to reduce the barriers to trade in abstraction licences. Further, for the Environment Agency to work with sectors, such as the energy generation industry, to develop a shared understanding of future water demand and risks to both the abstractors and the environment; and
- a water sector that focuses on its customers:
It is proposed to introduce a package of reforms to extend competition in the water sector by increasing choice for business customers and making the market more attractive to new entrants with the loosening of the current special merger regime that applies to the water sector. It is, also, proposed to support changes to help developers receive much higher standards of service from water companies, and to increase the transparency of the infrastructure and requisition charges the developers pay. “Statutory” market codes are also proposed to be introduced.
Further information can be found within the White Paper at http://bit.ly/rp7vru