Examination of witnesses (Questions 260-279)|
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2001
260. You do not have any problem with them putting
in winter storage?
(Dr Mance) Not if the circumstances are suitable,
261. Rainwater in big tanks underground?
(Dr Mance) That is one option but we are very keen
on all farmers dependent on irrigation to support their crops
with a trickle or spray to focus on winter storage to give themselves
the resilience during hot, dry summers.
262. I would be interested in what you think
of that idea. I have a model railway club which does not use any
waterwhich it needs for its little engines and so onbut
it has been very inventive and it has giant plastic containers,
and it diverts rainfall into those. Would it be possible on a
larger scale to do that kind of operation?
(Dr Mance) It is possible and we actively encourage
that. We refer to them as sustainable urban drainage systems in
part; trying to store water off impervious surfaces where it falls,
because there is a benefit all round from that. Whether it could
generate enough water would depend on the circumstances of the
263. That brings me on to another possibly even
more difficult area, again the south east: house building. That
is a well known problem because sometimes local authorities will
say, "What about the water supply?" Are you acutely
aware of that?
(Dr Mance) I think we commented to a previous inquiry
that we believe it is important at the time of a structure plan's
development that the planning authorities be clear on the availability
of water resources to support growth of housing areas and demand,
so that if that creates the need for a new reservoir in the area
they are clear on that at the time. It does not come as a surprise
to them afterwards, when as the planning authority they face the
prospect of a planning application for a significant new reservoir
with the consequent disruption to their constituents.
264. How do you view the 1963 Act when it says
that you have a primary duty to conserve, redistribute and otherwise
augment water resources? How on earth are you going to augment
water resources in the long term to safeguard supply to people?
(Dr Mance) In terms of supply to people through the
public water supply, we are doing that administratively by requiring
the companies to produce water resources plans for the next 25
years which we are vetting and commenting on. Then each year giving
them an annual programme of improvement to address so that where
their information is shaky they are required to improve it so
that the assumptions underlying that plan are improved. Within
those plans at the moment there are a number of short term additional
water resources identified as needed and those are in the process
of being developed. Some of those are extra boreholes, some are
amendments to existing abstraction points, some are increased
capacity at some water treatment works. They have got the capacity
in their licence to take from a particular source of water but
they cannot actually treat it and get it into the system, causing
pressure elsewhere in the system for resources. In the medium
term there are one or two more significant enhancements of water
resources: the raising of possibly one or two reservoirs in the
south east corner, for instance. At the moment none of the water
resources plans approved for the 25-year horizon shows the need
for a major strategic reservoir. That does not preclude that changing
after the review.
Christine Butler: Where would that be though?
Where would a major strategic reservoir be?
265. Who has the right to direct them to do
that? Do you have the right to say to them, "The only way
you can safeguard supplies is to build now a reservoir of so many
thousand cubic litres"?
(Dr Mance) They are under a statutory duty to ensure
the security of the public water supply. We have to have regard
to that duty now in our legislation.
266. I ask you again: who would tell them to
build a reservoir?
(Dr Mance) Under the present framework in extremis
the Director General.
267. In extremis?
(Dr Mance) Yes.
Mrs Dunwoody: When we are all gasping you would
say, "Go out and build a reservoir"?
268. Would you tell them all that?
(Dr Mance) I do not think we would wait that late.
269. Would you have to tell them all that? Some
might be water rich.
(Dr Mance) Clearly if a large part of your business
is to supply water to your customers you do not wish to run out.
As we saw in the reaction of governments old and new to the 1995
drought, the political reaction was severe, the pressure on the
industry was severe. What does cause us some concern in the draft
Bill is that the ability to require a water resources plan from
a company by ourselves, so we can assess it and check it for soundness,
if you like, depends upon a general information requirement provision
as opposed to a specific power.
270. So if they do not give you the information
you cannot check it?
(Dr Mance) It makes us slightly nervous that a water
resources plan needs information about the security of their supplies.
We would probably prefer to see it as an explicit power, just
as there is a power proposed for requiring drought contingency
271. Power for you?
(Dr Mance) For us, and that enables us to advise the
Secretary of State and the Director General that a plan potentially
is not adequate, not competent and not going to secure the long
272. What do you see from all of thisMrs
Dunwoody was asking toowould be the mechanism to having
a new strategic reservoir? You were talking about something big.
It would not be a decision of a company or a regulator or of yourselves.
How would it come about?
(Dr Mance) If I use the example of the present water
resource plans and the process we have been going through, one
company has identified a potential need for that. It is not justified
on the present information, but you could see that it may be in
the time horizon of 25 to 35 years out. It is clearly appropriate
for them to start doing the base work now about the environmental
impact of such a reservoir, the location, the pros and cons of
different locations, and explore them.
273. Would the location have to be within its
own catchment area?
(Dr Mance) Not necessarily. That is why they need
to start evaluating options now, given the long lead time.
274. Would it mean them having to buy that resource
from another company in another area?
(Dr Mance) One of the provisions deals with bulk transfers
where there is existing spare capacity but where there is no further
existing spare capacity (which is what one is looking at) 20 to
30 years out. Then there is clearly a need for them to provide
the additional resource. It is clearly for them then to fund it.
The water resource plan for the company becomes the base document
for the periodic review issue for the next price review, for instance,
for the Director General to see what needs funding in the certain
275. But supposing you keep saying to them,
"I do not like your plan. It does not guarantee supplies."
There is a whole area of dispute where the company says, "We
have secured sufficient supplies", and you say, "No,
I am not satisfied that that is the case." At which point
does somebody say to them, "Within the next 15 years we would
expect you to provide a reservoir."? That is the interesting
(Dr Mance) Within the present framework of legislation,
and it is not addressed within the draft Bill, or in Taking
Water Responsibly, the document behind the Bill, the route
would be for us to advise the Director General that we had no
confidence in the provision being made by the company and the
Director General has powers in relation to the competent management
of the company.
276. How much power does having no confidence
give them? I have no confidence in a large number of utilities,
but how much competence does that give me to squeeze them into
building a reservoir? I am sorry, but before I get to the point
where we run out of Welsh water in bottles I would like to know
what we are doing. Who says to them, "Look, you so-and-so's,
you have not got it right"?
(Dr Mance) We have very clearly said that in public
two or three times and companies have moved a long way as a result,
so public pressure works tremendously. In relation to major reservoirs
we have been acting in the opposite direction in the sense of
requiring companies to demonstrate that they do need all the large
reservoirs they claim are necessary. If you cast your mind back
to 1995/96, the water industry itself was talking about five or
six major strategic reservoirs being needed to be built in the
next ten to 15 years. The evidence does not support that at all
when we examine it. It is actually restraining rather than pushing
at the moment.
277. Can I take you on to the question of competition?
As far as competition is concerned, in all these water resources
plans that you have been studying how much extra new supplies
of water do the companies envisage coming about as a result of
the provisions for competition?
(Dr Mance) None. Depending how competition is implemented
it should have no implications for additional water being required
by the companies.
278. But it may encourage people to look for
new sources, may it not?
(Dr Mance) Yes indeed, and one of our concerns which
we have flagged to government is that the competition model adopted
should not get into the area of speculative licensing of abstraction,
ie that the applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have
got reasonable need for the water as now, ie, they do have credible
prospective customers to supply that water to.
279. Parts of East Anglia putting in new boreholes
might cause all sorts of problems to the water table, but putting
new boreholes under most of our cities actually would probably
improve the environment to lower the water table, would it not?
(Dr Mance) Yes, and some of the smaller more entrepreneurial
companies looking to compete with the establishment companies
are well aware of that and looking in just those areas for sources