LETTER : Save water by the meter

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Sir: Following the Environment Secretary's call for a national water grid, you were absolutely right (leading article, 1 April) to ask for a carefully thought-out strategy on water. Having a national grid does not necessarily mean an affordable, safe supply. We should instead look to maintaining local networks and more water conservation.

Last week at a meeting of the Institute of Chemical Engineers on the technical and social issues of water recycling, speakers described local solutions to the water shortage problem. These included recycling so-called "grey water" from baths for toilet flushing and collection of rainwater for household use. All very laudable but a speaker from Germany was amazed at the lack of metering and how cheap water was in the UK. Thus there is little incentive even to try water conservation and recycling on a limited basis.

The Government has a scheme for paying a premium price to producers of electricity from non-fossil fuel sources. If we do not want to put up the price of water, surely the first step to a sensible, sustainable policy is to encourage conservation and recycling by having a similar scheme for water.

Professor Tom Stephenson

School of Water Sciences

Cranfield University

Cranfield, Bedfordshire