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NRA defies Gummer over water shortages

The National Rivers Authority will today contradict the Government with a recommendation that action over leaking pipes is the best way to tackle water shortages, rather than metering, which ministers would prefer, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The backing for a clampdown on leaks, in a report on water conservation published this morning, is in conflict with last month's Government report, Water Conservation, Government Action, which devoted only 9 paragraphs out of 71 to the leakage problem while declaring: "The Government believes companies should extend the use of meters as far and as quickly as possible."

Although John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, backed away from forcing unpopular metering on consumers, he declined to impose mandatory targets on reducing leaks, leaving the privatised water companies to make their own voluntary ones.

A quarter of all water supplies in Britain is lost through leaking pipes.