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Ensuring Water for All (2010)

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The aim of this scoping study carried out by Atkins was to extend the existing body of knowledge on water efficiency, allowing regional stakeholders to make informed decisions on how to progress water efficiency as part of a wider multi-stakeholder strategy. Focusing on South East England, the study summarised current water efficiency activity and identified high-potential options to be prioritised in the future and outlined funding opportunities and management structures for effective implementation of options. The key recommendation arising from this scoping study is to develop a regional body for the co-ordination of water efficiency activities.

Introduction

This project was initiated by the Environment Agency (EA) and the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and has been supported by a steering group consisting of representatives from the organisations listed below.

Progress on water efficiency is consistent with the EA‟s national Water Resources Strategy, the South East (SE) and Thames‟ River Basin Management Plans, the Regional Spatial Strategy, the Regional Economic Strategy and the water companies‟ Water Resources Management Plans.The presence of water efficiency in this wide array of agendas reflects the support from multiple organisations for this scoping study.1.1 BackgroundWater is a precious, non-renewable resource, as is much of the energy used in its treatment, distribution, and in particular the use of water within the home. Water companies in England and Wales have recently planned their solutions for securing water resources for the next 25 years, with strategies based on a twin-track approach of demand management and water resource development. Ofwat, the economic water regulator, requires companies to show that their plans are cost beneficial. As such, water is increasingly being viewed as an economic commodity. Water use is therefore being scrutinised more closely by both regulators and water companies.The efficient use of water is characterised by minimising wastage, not necessarily by restricting use. Water companies in England and Wales have a statutory duty to promote the efficient use of water to their customers and have recently been set annual volumetric targets for water efficiency by Ofwat: of 1 litre per property per day for all companies operating in water stressed areas such as SE England1. A number of water efficiency initiatives have been and are being run by water companies in the SE both to meet these targets and in acknowledgement of the need to balance demand management with development of new water resources.Other parties also have statutory duties in the area of water efficiency, e.g. the Secretary of State and public authorities have a duty under the Water Act 2003 to encourage the conservation of water, and under the same Act the EA has a duty to secure the efficient use of water resources. Many councils are also working alongside other local authorities, water companies and the Environment Agency to produce Water Cycle Strategies which will help inform the manner in which development can best be implemented within the possible constraints imposed by the need to protect the water environment.