Water companies are almost uniquely placed in relation to their relationship with the environment. The state of the water they abstract impacts on their business operations and their discharges into their environment have the capacity to cause significant pollution.
Following a letter sent to them in July, the chief executives from 15 water companies met last week with Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, and were challenged to do more to protect the environment and safeguard supplies.
While the Minister acknowledged that the water industry had coped well with the impacts and challenges thrown up by the Covid-lockdown, she pressed for further action going forwards, in particular with regards to:
- Reducing sewer discharges into water courses during extreme weather;
- Protecting chalk stream catchments; and
- Leakage, where the target is to halve rates by 2050;
The clear message is that action is needed 'faster and further'.
The Environment Agency's annual report on water company environmental performance is due later this month. It will be interesting to see how the industry fares in that report.
The water industry faces a number of significant challenges. What is described as the "jaws of death" (where a point is reached at which supply of water, constrained by climate change, can no longer meet demand, increased by population growth) is not long away. The industry has also committed to reach Net Zero by 2030 so will need to adapt its operations to meet that commitment.
The actions pressed for by Rebecca Pow are known constraints which are being dealt with by the industry. However, this Governmental focus to faster will add to the pressure that the industry is already feeling.
Written by Michael Barlow, Partner, and Jo Attwood, Senior Associate.
Water company chiefs challenged on environmental performance, leakage and protecting supplies.