How Can Water Companies Do More for the Environment?
Oct 31 2020 Read 660 Times
The UK government has asked water companies across the country to do more to clean up their environmental profile and protect the national water supplies. Last month, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow met with the chief executives of 15 different water companies and representatives from a number of independent watchdogs and other advisory bodies to lay out her concerns.
Although Pow acknowledged that companies had shown promising signs in their performance over recent times and had coped well with the pressures placed on them by the current pandemic, she intimated there was still plenty of room for improvement. In particular, she identified storm overflows, chalk streams and water supply leakages as areas to be targeted.
The first point upon which Pow has demanded action is the efficacy of storm overflows. The ongoing issue of climate change has prompted an increase in extreme weather events, which have in turn brought about high volumes of precipitation and led to flooding.
Of course, monitoring plays a key role in natural flood management, with the example of a local primary school in Bristol using a flood warning system to great effect to avoid becoming cut off held up as the paradigm of how such monitoring can help. However, Pow wants water companies to do more than just monitor – she has demand that the volume of raw sewage carried into rivers, streams and other waterways during storms must be brought down going forwards.
Pow’s second bone of contention was chalk streams. These waterways run from springs in areas with a high content of chalk in their bedrock, meaning the moisture can permeate into the ground beneath with ease and surface run-off is not a great concern. They are also generally regarded as being home to clear waters and a wide array of biodiverse wildlife.
However, unsustainable abstraction activities have led to low flows among chalk streams and poor water quality, thus endangering the organisms which live within. Pow has asked companies to ramp up their efforts to support chalk streams, reconvening at a Chalk Stream summit in October.
Plugging the leaks
Finally, Pow highlighted the unacceptable levels of leakages across the UK. Although the Minister did acknowledge that leakage rates had dropped in recent years, she reminded her audience that the government had outlined its expectation that they must be halved by 2050.
In order to aid water companies in this endeavour, the government published a new national framework for handling leakages earlier this year. As well as elucidating the size and scale of the challenge ahead, the framework also sets out concrete actions that can be pursued not only by private businesses such as the water companies present at that meeting, but also the general public, as well.
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