Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of witnesses (Questions 280-291)



Christine Butler

  280. Where it floods a lot?
  (Dr Mance) Yes.


  281. So there could be substantial extra water coming in that way?
  (Dr Mance) It could mean extra water coming in that way. Let us put it in context. Under Birmingham the rising ground water is, due to the loss of historic abstractions, around 80 megalitres a day in a water company area where the water company is supplying 2,500 megalitres a day or thereabouts, so the additional water is useful but not dramatic.

  282. But it is not taken into account in any of these water resources plans that you have been talking about?
  (Dr Mance) Some are. For instance, the Birmingham ground water, abstracting that so that it can be put in the river, providing a base to be removed further downstream in Nottingham, does in fact feature in the Severn Trent plan, for instance. The rising ground water in London does feature in the Thames water plan. Those issues are starting to be included.

  283. Demand management. Ought there to be a much stronger duty in the legislation that companies have to look at demand management?
  (Dr Mance) Yes, in the context of efficient use of water by themselves and their customers. It is important that that is very clear and that is exercised. I think it is fair to say that if each individual company adopted the examples of best practice that are around the country and put them all together as a best practice package it would have quite a significant impact. We do not see a coherent drive on that at the moment. We do not see Ofwat putting it as a priority and they are the lead regulator on efficient use being promoted by the companies. The companies themselves do not have a duty to act efficiently themselves in relation to their water, which is anomalous.

  284. So it should be included in the new legislation?
  (Dr Mance) Yes.

  285. You promised us this list of 12 things that you also want to go into the Bill. Are you disappointed by the Bill, that really it is only a half or a quarter of a meal?
  (Dr Mance) Gwyn worked very closely with another of our staff with the DETR team putting together the package of proposals.

Mrs Dunwoody

  286. Oh, so it is his fault?
  (Dr Mance) It is not his fault that only part of the meal is on the table at the moment; hence we would very much like to see all the provisions in the government's Taking Water Responsibly document translated through into the Bill. That is a comprehensive package that would give us the flexibility to manage water resources responsibly in future, but we need the legislation to be able to do so.


  287. Can you explain then why we have only got half a meal on the table?
  (Dr Mance) I think you had best address that to the DETR. I believe they have had time constraints in preparing the material.

Mrs Dunwoody

  288. Oh, come on.
  (Dr Mance) That is what we have been told, but you had best address that to them.


  289. But do you think it would be very useful to have a proper Bill rather than this very half-hearted one?
  (Dr Mance) I think it is important that this Bill reaches the statute book. With the flooding of the autumn everyone is focused on floods and flooding. The other side of climate change is that we will get 1995 type summers ever more frequently and we need to be in a position to manage water resources in the context of that type of climate.

  290. But Departments tend to get one slot every five or six years for legislation, and some of this has not been touched since 1963, has it?
  (Dr Mance) No.

  291. So if they do not take the opportunity to have a proper Bill in the next Queen's Speech then they might well wait a long time for some of these provisions.
  (Dr Mance) Indeed. Hence we are saying very clearly to you that we do need the legislation brought up to date to be fit for the 21st century and to cope with climate change. It is absolutely essential.

  Chairman: On that note, thank you very much for your evidence.

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