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United Utilities freeze water rates

January 29, 2009 at 3:46 pm

United Utilities has brought some welcome news to community groups throughout the country which are currently feeling the effects of the credit crunch. The water company, which provides services in regions including Manchester, Lancashire, and Cheshire, has revealed that it will freeze the rates charged to charities and organisations including religious organisations. Such groups had been worried after the company announced that it was set to increase the charges.

The news has not just made members of the groups happy. The impact of price rises could have had much wider implications. Many members of the public were concerned that churches would be forced to cut back the money spent on performing good deeds in the local community, whilst regular church-goers were anxious that some churches would have to close down permanently.

The news is not all positive though. The price freeze is only a temporary one and new charges will be phased in when long-term solutions to current problems are found. A spokesman for United Utilities stated that the new charges would not be phased in “until Ofwat agrees” to “implement a longer term solution”.

A spokesman for the Scout Association, Simon Carter, revealed that he was happy with the news, since it is “good to see this company take a brave step”. However, Carter also stated that the move is “only a partial moratorium”. Despite this, United Utilities remains adamant that they will help their “most affected customers” to “minimise their charges” whilst ensuring that the impact upon the environment is as negligible as possible.

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Anger from anglers over proposals to use UK rivers for green energy

January 23, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Anglers around the country are angry at “environmentally friendly” proposals to build propeller-based turbines in some of Britain’s rivers. Over 500 small-scale hydro-electric schemes are being planned, many using old water mills and turbines in order to power people’s homes.

However, many anglers feel their concerns about depleting fish stocks have been overlooked. Water is diverted from rivers to generate turbines causing ‘dried-up’ stretches of waterways. This means there is less for fish to feed in, which in turn could reduce species diversity. Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said “the amount of power these things generate is not that great and they cause big problems”.

The Wildlife Trust shared some of the anglers’ dissent, particularly with regards to habitat loss and drainage of bogs. A spokeswoman for the Trust expressed concerns about the “dramatic changes in physical and hydrological conditions”.

Fish passes have been designed to allow fish to move past safely, but anglers say these have very little effect. Some turbines are already in operation and others are being constructed. The Environment Agency is keen to encourage alternative sources of energy and say this can be done relatively easily using rivers and waterways. The Chief Executive of British Hydropower Association explained that they are working with the Environment Agency to ensure that flora and fauna remain. He said “there should be no fears from fishermen from hydropower”.

One scheme generating a lot of criticism from anglers is being built in Settle, North Yorkshire. It is hoped that the turbine will create enough energy to power 50 homes. In Scotland, a report published in September suggested there is huge untapped potential using small schemes, less than 10 MW in size. This caused alarm amongst salmon anglers and environment workers are urging caution, particularly in areas of outstanding natural beauty.

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Less water than parts of Africa

January 14, 2009 at 2:13 pm

A startling fact hit the headlines recently regarding the water shortage in the South East of England: apparently ten million of us live in areas where we have less water per head than residents of countries such as Egypt and Morocco. As far as Europe is concerned, we have more of a problem than most, with only the sun drenched countries of Cyprus, Malta, Spain, and Italy faring worse.

Over fifty percent of households in England and Wales are located in areas where demand exceeds supply and, if we start having the dry summers predicted by climate change forecasters, nearly 25 million of us will have hosepipe bans and other measures imposed. Fortunately, because of the wet spring and summer of the last two years, we are unlikely to face restrictions this summer, even if it proves to be a dry one.

According to figures from the Environment Agency, each of us uses on average 32 gallons of water each day and the Agency would like us to cut this down to 28 gallons. This can be done in various ways but they are also calling for the quicker introduction of water meters to help ease the situation. Households which have had water meters fitted use on average 13% less water than other households so this could be a very good move. However, with only 30% of houses currently having a meter installed, it could take 30 years for the whole of England and Wales to have one fitted.

The third proposal favoured by the Environment Agency concerns the water companies. If they mended the leaking pipes around the country, then 3.5 billion litres of water could be saved each day. Given the fact that the water companies made a profit of around a billion pounds last year, perhaps it is not unreasonable to expect the giants to do their fair share to help the situation.

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