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Call for greater protection for England’s water supply

July 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm

A commons select committee has just announced that more action is needed – and fast – if we are to protect the water resources of England.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, which was chaired by Anne McIntosh, said that more ambitious targets were needed to encourage a greater number of households to install water meters.

As well as improving targets for water meters, the select committee also said that new reforms which control how water is extracted from rivers should be sped up because some rivers are already drying up.

The committee released its conclusions after analysing the government’s white paper on the issue of the UK’s water use over the coming years in the face of population growth and climate change.

Many parts of England have been affected badly by drought this year, and the large water suppliers have only just brought their hosepipe bans to an end. However, at the same time severe rainfall across the country has led to serious flooding.

As well as suggesting clearer targets for water meters, another area which it said needed urgent attention was greater pressure to encourage all customers to pay their bills. Currently, customers who do not pay their bills are adding an extra £15 to every household’s water bill each year.

However, water minister Richard Benyon said in response to the report that he did not believe a “one-size-fits-all solution is the best way forward”, and instead said that “companies should work with their customers to find the solution that works best in their local area”.

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Hosepipe bans lifted by three water companies

June 22, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Three of the largest water companies in the UK recently lifted their hosepipe bans, allowing millions of people to start watering their garden plants and washing their cars with greater ease once again.

The companies in question are Southern Water, Thames Water and Anglian Water, which together provide water to 15 million people in the south and east of England.

Restrictions came into place in April, but no sooner had they been enforced than huge amounts of rainfall arrived. Both April and May were very wet months, and heavy rain at the beginning of June also helped to ease the pressure on the water companies. The large amount of rain also reduced the demand for water by gardeners.

However, not all companies are lifting the hosepipe bans just yet. Sutton East Surrey Water, South East Water, Veolia Water Southeast and Veolia Water Central are keeping the bans in place for the time being, and the reason for this is that they depend more upon groundwater reserves than on reservoirs.

The bans came into force following two excessively dry winters, and it is now thought that some places around the UK are going to need a very wet winter indeed to recover fully.

Despite the recent wet months, the risk of a serious drought has still not gone away, and next year we could be back in the same situation if the winter is dry once again.

Richard Aylard from Thames Water said that “with groundwater levels still low and the possibility of a third successive dry winter, we still need to be careful”. He pleaded with customers to use their water very sparingly whilst the situation was still precarious.

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Hosepipe bans relaxed in the south east

June 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm

The very dry weather over the winter saw seven large water firms impose hosepipe bans at the beginning of April. However, following a month of record rainfall, Thames Water and the six other firms to impose the bans have announced a slight relaxation for horticultural businesses.

Turf companies, landscaping firms and other gardening businesses will now be able to water plants and turf that they lay for up to 28 days following planting, in a move which is likely to be a huge relief to many companies.

However, despite the relaxation in the rules, the water shortage problem is still severe because groundwater levels are still very low and the hosepipe ban will remain in place for other water customers in the south of England.

On April 5, seven water firms restricted the use of hosepipes, but the rest of the month then saw two-and-a-half times the average amount of rainfall which led to the easing of the restrictions.

Gardening firms suffer badly under hosepipe bans, and Richard Aylard from Thames Water said that they are “relieved to be in a position to take this step”.

Horticultural firms had been worried that the restrictions could even lead to fewer contracts and the loss of jobs, which is not what the industry needs in these difficult economic times. According to ITV News, the Turfgrass Growers Association reported sales dropping 60% following the introduction of the hosepipe ban.

The lifting of restrictions will come as a relief to many, but the BBC recently reported on a turf supplier from Bedfordshire who claims that the easing of restrictions have done nothing for his business.

Giles Talwell claimed that Anglian Water’s decision to relax hosepipe usage for turf companies only applies when the turf is professionally laid. If his customers lay the turf themselves they are not allowed to water it for the following 28 days, and this has led to a fall in sales of 80%.

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Call to renationalise water industry

May 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

An exclusive survey by Angus Reid for ‘The Express’ has revealed that 71% of Brits would prefer to renationalise the water industry. This comes at a time when Britain is under rigid drought restrictions, despite having had the wettest April since record began in 1910.

The survey by ‘The Express’ of over 2000 people showed that the highest support was from Brits over 55 (76%) who would like to see the water industry return to how it was in their youth. This was followed by a 72% supportive vote from the 35-55 age category. Geographically, the greatest backing came from people in the South East region, mainly London, who are covered by Thames Water.

This is not surprising as Thames Water is on the brink of calling for a ban of all non-essential water use. Thames Water has already imposed a hosepipe restriction, but the current state of things may see swimming pools and car washes temporarily closed in the summer (2012). Citizens in the South East are enraged by this, following reports that Thames Water is the worst offender for water leakage in Britain with rates of 25.7% outflow a day. The Express states that with the 665 million litres of water that Thames Water wastes a day due to leakages, they “could fill Wembley Stadium every 36 hours.”

Gary Smith, the national secretary of the GMB union, has launched an attack at water companies over this unacceptable issue. He demands that industry regulator Ofwat and the companies concerned are penalised for negligence of water management responsibility. He states “It cannot be repeated often enough that there is no shortage of water in Britain.” It is clear that the issue here concerns water management and distribution and that companies are failing to come through on the promises that privatisation was set to bring in the late 80’s.

A Defra spokesman said: “Since privatisation over £90billion pounds has been invested in the water industry to improve resilience and reduce pollution. Renationalisation would be a backward step and is not a solution to the problems we face.” Despite this, the water industry regulator has been reported to have said that water companies will not accept tougher targets on water leakages unless they can charge higher tariffs. With water bills in Britain already higher than Europe, this is another tick in favour of nationalisation.

It is now the responsibility of the government to investigate and review this issue.

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Ex head of Welsh Water says water should be sold to England

April 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm

With seven water companies in England imposing hosepipe bans recently, water is well and truly back on the agenda. Now the former boss of Welsh Water has claimed that water should be treated like oil and sold to drought-hit regions of England.

John Elfed Jones said on BBC Wales that Wales should take advantage of the hosepipe ban in England by transferring its water and selling it to the hardest-hit regions. However, Welsh Water was quick to reject the idea, saying that it is not practical and too expensive.

The announcement was made after it was revealed that Severn Trent is planning to sell water to Anglian Water, which has been affected by the hosepipe ban. The water will not be sold for profit but only to cover costs, and it will help to supply the needs of 100,000 homes in Lincolnshire by providing up to 30 million litres of water a day.

Mr Jones said that it was “about time we took this option seriously”, but a Welsh Water spokesperson said that it is “not possible to move water from Wales to the south-east” of England, and that it is “too expensive and it would not be a practical option either for environmental reasons”.

20 million people are affected by the hosepipe ban in England which came into force due to the severe lack of rainfall in recent months. This is the first time that Severn Trent has traded water, and the company stated that it would continue to do so as long as was necessary.

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Thames offers businesses free water saving advice

December 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Thames Water is offering its business customers free advice and training on ways to cut down on water usage and save money.

Partnering Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), Thames Water will provide a ‘Rippleffect’ support package for businesses, offering tips and practical advice.

The support package is free and offers guidance to businesses in the form of five on-line training modules. Also available to support the modules are on-line tools, guides, a free phone advice line, web conferences and webcast, said the water company.

According to Thames Water, the Rippleffect provides a straightforward approach to identify how much water a business uses, by highlighting ways to reduce water consumption and save money.

It also recommends ‘quick win’ water saving devices, with one example being the use of passive infrared sensors (PIR). Companies using urinals that operate without a flush control could benefit by saving approximately £3,800 a year in water and sewage costs by installing PIR. Installation costs are around £350 and payback can be expected to be seen in five weeks, said Thames Water.

It also advised that measuring and monitoring water use, as well as comparing water usage each year was important, in order for businesses to save on consumption.

David Grantham, Thames Water’s water efficiency manager, said that Thames Water wanted to help businesses find water saving solutions, to ensure that there was “more water in the supply network for other people, and more in the environment for wildlife”.

He explained that London and the Thames Valley region had been classed as “seriously water stressed”, with below average rainfall for 15 of the past 19 months and this was creating a “cumulative problem”.

“By reducing water consumption, you can reduce your carbon emissions,” he added.

To register for a Rippleffect support package visit Thames Water

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Water company drought fears for 2012

December 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm

A number of water companies have announced that they are concerned that 2012 could see a drought, and are starting to prepare for the possibility.

Thames Water and South East Water are the latest two water companies to express their concern, and they were preceded by Anglian Water.

The news comes as there are growing concerns over the reduced groundwater levels and a lack of supply, following a particularly dry autumn.

On top of that, there are fears that the UK could be about to experience its second mild winter in a row which could increase the chances of a drought occurring.

The companies have stated that up to half of all households in the UK could face restrictions imposed due to a drought next year if the amount of rainfall this winter does not go back to its normal level.

The UK has recently experienced some of the driest weather that it has ever seen. As a result, water companies are now starting to urge customers to start taking their water conservation seriously to do their bit to help.

Temperatures across England are still very mild, and if the winter proves to be dry again then there are serious concerns about what it could lead to.

If the rainfall is not satisfactory, people could see restrictions imposed on using sprinklers, hosepipes, washing cars and other activities.

However, Southern Water and Severn Trent both told The Guardian that they are hoping the rainfall is sufficient this winter to prevent the need for more restrictions.

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Water company drought fears for 2012

November 29, 2011 at 5:12 pm

A number of water companies have announced that they are concerned that 2012 could see a drought, and are starting to prepare for the possibility.

Thames Water and South East Water are the latest two water companies to express their concern, and they were preceded by Anglian Water.

The news comes as there are growing concerns over the reduced groundwater levels and a lack of supply, following a particularly dry autumn.

On top of that, there are fears that the UK could be about to experience its second mild winter in a row which could increase the chances of a drought occurring.

The companies have stated that up to half of all households in the UK could face restrictions imposed due to a drought next year if the amount of rainfall this winter does not go back to its normal level.

The UK has recently experienced some of the driest weather that it has ever seen. As a result, water companies are now starting to urge customers to start taking their water conservation seriously to do their bit to help.

Temperatures across England are still very mild, and if the winter proves to be dry again then there are serious concerns about what it could lead to.

If the rainfall is not satisfactory, people could see restrictions imposed on using sprinklers, hosepipes, washing cars and other activities.

However, Southern Water and Severn Trent both told The Guardian that they are hoping the rainfall is sufficient this winter to prevent the need for more restrictions.

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How office water coolers are reducing staff sickness and absence

April 14, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Staff sickness and attendance records at workplaces that have a water cooler on-site are often better than at those that only have soft drink vending machines (water cooler companies such as Water for Work and Home claim). As UK workers start to prefer chilled water to caffeine and fizzy drinks, they are becoming more productive as a result.

A noticeable improvement in employees’ alertness, brain function speed, general receptiveness, and energy levels is all being traced back by many UK bosses to one simple yet significant decision: to provide fresh chilled water at their premises (usually from a bottled water cooler).

As staff avoid the perils of dehydration (headaches, tiredness, poor concentration, reduced attention span and information retention, etc.), lower levels of sickness absence also occur, productivity increases, and a more positive workplace atmosphere becomes the norm.

Bottled water coolers are generally cheaper than vending machines, and deliveries of replacement bottles can be scheduled to suit each company’s particular needs, on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. The water coolers can also be situated in almost any location, and so where connecting a plumbed-in water cooler proves unfeasible, bottled water coolers are ideal.

The removal of all empty bottles, and a back-up service that ensures bottled water coolers are always clean and well-maintained, comes as standard from most UK bottled water cooler companies.

All this could soon spell the end of vending machines in workplaces across Britain; the many benefits of having a well-hydrated workforce being simply too attractive to ignore!

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Four million households ‘water poor’

March 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm

An influential think tank has warned Britain that unless climate change is dealt with urgently, “water poverty” will become a serious problem in the UK for many households. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the largest charities on social policy research and development, defines water poverty as occurring when households spend 3% of their income or more on their water bills. It estimates that four million households in the UK are already “water poor”.

According to the report, climate change will lead to increased demand for water, causing a dramatic increase in water prices over the years. Many water companies are already moving away from fixed charges, instead charging their customers on the amount consumed. Water bills are now predicted to rise by as much as 5% a year for some households. The Foundation claims that these increases will make water unaffordable for some families.

The report also states that the south-west of England will be the worst affected. Consumers in this area already face bills which are on average 43% higher than the rest of the country, but the problem will be exacerbated in the coming years with the influx of people, including tourists, into the region. The south-east already has a three-tier pricing system, which many residents believe is unfair due to different household sizes and medical needs. Any further price increases may be unsustainable for low-income families with higher water consumption.

There is currently no equivalent to winter fuel payments for water poverty. However, a number of schemes exist such as WaterSure, which can put a cap on water charges for people in special circumstances, for example those who are on a low income and have medical needs.

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