Industry 'should pay for water clean-up'

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INDUSTRY and motorists should pay more towards the 'enormous' cost of cleaning up Britain's water, the National Consumer Council said yesterday, writes David Nicholson-Lord.

Over 10 years from 1994 the cost could add pounds 160, on top of inflation, to householders' water and sewerage bills.

The council says it is unfair for householders to pay for pollution that they have not caused. Instead, a tax should be levied on pesticide makers and motorists should pay for road drainage through the car licence duty.

In submissions to the Department of the Environment and the Office of Water Services, the regulatory body, it also opposes water metering, which it says carries serious health consequences, and urges the Government to consider outlawing disconnections.

The scope for individuals to reduce water consumption is limited and relies on more efficient appliances, it adds. Metering trials produced 'serious hardship'.

The council points to leaking mains - up to 38 per cent is lost through leaks in some companies - and says it is 'concerned in case a disproportionate share of the burden for water conservation is placed on individual citizens'.

It criticises the 'monopolistic' status of the water companies, the wide variation in charges and the above-inflation profits and dividends since privatisation.

The council backs 'the polluter must pay' argument, endorsed by the Government, which could mean a tax on pesticides, both to cut down on their use and to help pay for the clean-up of rivers.

Water bills have risen by nearly 5 per cent a year above inflation since 1989 and disconnections are at record levels.