Responding to drought
The start of April saw Anglian Water, Thames Water and Veolia Central introduce hosepipe bans for domestic customers, though there are exceptions for commercial customers.
Cambridge Water, Veolia Water East and Essex and Suffolk Water do not anticipate the need for customer restrictions.
This action is in response to the acute and ongoing drought as a result of two dry winters; the last six months have been the driest since records began in 1921. Scenarios modelled by the water companies show that even with above average rainfall, there is likely to be a severe drought this summer.
As well as the high-profile hosepipe bans, the Environment Agency and water companies are actively managing the situation:
- Local Drought Plans guide how and when decisions on temporary bans and drought permits are made;
- By helping farmers improve their water security and sharing resources;
- By working with the media to keep people informed about what is and is not permitted;
- Through the voluntary Regional Drought Management Forum, keeping a range of water users and interest groups updated on work to mitigate the impact of the drought. Any local authorities wishing to be involved with the Forum should contact email@example.com.
The Local Government Association has also acted to make local authorities aware that new legislation changes the work they can do under hosepipe bans. The Environment and Housing Programme Board is also seeking examples of authorities leading by example in reducing their own water use - and examples can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Longer term planning
With local growth pressures, the effects of climate change and a need to keep water bills affordable, attention remains on long-term water planning.
Established in 2008, the East of England Water Partnership is led by the Environment Agency and brings together water companies, regulators, consumer groups and other partners. Its representatives recently met with leaders of county and unitary authorities to examine how work between local authorities, water companies and the Environment Agency could help to manage future challenges:
- Through the strategic planning process, local authorities can help to ensure that new developments are more water efficient - examples in Northstowe and Breckland were cited. This would particularly need to involve local planning authorities and processes relating to the 'Duty to Cooperate' in developing local plans;
- Water Cycle Studies underpin long-term water planning and companies' investment plans, and they benefit greatly from strong local authority input
- The Local Enterprise Partnerships offer an opportunity to involve businesses in assessing future water needs and provision. Some LEPs are also working on infrastructure requirements required for growth;
- As the most water-stressed area of the UK, it was agreed that local leaders from water companies and local authorities should continue to press Government to ensure households and businesses benefit from a reliable and affordable water supply.
It was agreed that the East of England LGA would work with partners from the Water Partnership and relevant Portfolio-Holder and senior officer networks to ensure local government is engaged in this work.