Leading article: Plenty of water to go around

Related Topics

One option, of course, is to pray for rain; because unless there is quite a deluge in the coming months then parts of the country face the worst water shortages since 1976. Indeed, the cracked riverbeds and fast-emptying reservoirs of the south-east have galvanised the Environment Secretary into calling a "drought summit" of all interested parties from water companies to environmental groups. All well and good, providing she acts swiftly as a result.

Water shortages are far from new. Neither are they simply a matter of two unseasonably dry winters in succession. The average person now uses 150 litres of water every day, almost 50 per cent more than 25 years ago, and consumption is set to rise by more than a third again over the coming decades. The Government does have a plan of sorts, encouraging sensible measures such as only filling the kettle as much as is required. But changing public behaviour is slow and time is of the essence.

The case for water meters is, therefore, a strong one. Less than a third of households have a meter, but those that do use around 10 per cent less water. There are issues to be addressed – to ensure that poorer people are not penalised, for example – but they are far from insurmountable and a national scheme should be put in place as soon as possible.

Cutting consumption is only part of the solution, however. Water shortages are not just a matter of profligacy, they also show how far the country's infrastructure has failed to keep up with the demands upon it. Regulatory changes, in particular to encourage water companies to trade between regions, may not be enough by themselves, but they will certainly help.

With regional trading up and running, the final piece in the jigsaw is the new pipelines, canals and aqueducts needed to shift larger volumes from wetter to drier areas. Major infrastructure spending – with all the implications for jobs and skills – is also just what the moribund economy needs. But to get plans off the ground, the Government will need to do more to help with funding, albeit by bringing forward capital spending rather than extra borrowing.

The central challenge facing Britain's water sector is not that it rains more in the North than in the South, nor that we use too much water. It is that there is no co-ordinated, nationwide approach. In fairness, efforts are being made and a water Bill is expected from the Government shortly. But progress has been too slow, as the dry bed of River Kennet attests. It can only be hoped that yesterday's summit will quicken the pace. Yet more talking will not be enough.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Ed Miliband:  

Ed Miliband: I pledge to make Britain a more just and equal country

Ed Miliband
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk