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Rebecca Pow MP delivers speech outlining the Government’s key areas on water policy

Rebecca Pow MP, Minister for Environmental Quality and Resilience at Defra, gave a speech on February 22 at the World Water-Tech Innovation Summit in London outlining the Government’s key areas on water policy.

She explained that their water agenda was set after passing the Environment Act 2021. This includes a Strategic Policy Statement for Ofwat that sets out priorities for them and water companies to enhance water quality and deliver a resilient and sustainable water supply.

She said: “Our ambitions require significant investment in infrastructure, and investment by the water industry should be maximised through co-funding with other sectors and green finance opportunities.”

Pow touched on the thorny issue of sewage discharges, pointing to the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan, which “requires water companies to secure the largest infrastructure programme in water company history – a significant £56bn capital investment over the next 25 years to tackle this issue.”

Under the plan, by 2035, water companies must improve all storm sewage overflows discharging into or near every designated bathing water and improve 75% of overflows discharging to high-priority nature sites.

The Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, published earlier this year, outlined ten goals and also encompasses a new statutory target (Water Demand Target), which aims to deliver a 20% reduction in public water supply use per head of population by 2037/38.

Pow said: “To achieve this target, we plan to reduce household water use to 122 litres per person per day. At the moment the average is approximately 140 litres per person per day. Some water companies have already brought that down but this is the average water use we are setting – 122 litres per person per day. We also have targets to reduce leakage by 37% and reduce non-household water use by 9% by March 2038.

“To support households and businesses to achieve this reduction, a mandatory water efficiency labelling scheme will be introduced, and a roadmap on water efficiency will be developed, covering both new developments and retrofits. So our new homes going forward will have gadget showers and loos that all use less water.”

The minister also pointed to water companies, encouraging them to increase smart metering for households and businesses through accelerated investment, and that reduced demand and increased supply are of equal importance.

She said: “Ofwat, the regulator, has established RAPID (The Regulators’ Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development) with the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate to help facilitate the development and funding of new, large-scale water supply infrastructure by water companies.”

Pow recognises that the current global supply chain issues of construction supplies have slowed the development of infrastructure to improve water resilience and water quality, but remains optimistic “that as a society we are capable of dealing with all this of working together, so that we can leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.”

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