England faces ‘serious risk’ of running out of water by 2040


The UK’s Public Accounts Committee says the bodies responsible for Britain’s water supply – Defra, Ofwat and the Environment Agency – have “taken their eye off the ball” and there is a real risk that some parts of England could run out water by 2040.

Over 3 billion litres of water, a fifth of the UK’s daily consumption – are lost daily due to non-revenue losses like leakages, a situation the committee says is unacceptable.

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The report says Government has failed to be clear with water companies, privatised in 1989, on how they should balance investment in infrastructure with reducing customer bills, and says “ponderous” water companies have made “no progress” in reducing leakage over the last 20 years. 

The committee calls for Defra to produce annual performance league tables for water companies; step up on promoting water efficiency and deliver an effective campaign for water-saving.

Industry action has failed, says the committee and government needs to step in and substantially step up efforts to coordinate increased awareness of the need to save water. 

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “It is very hard to imagine, in this country, turning the tap and not having enough clean, drinkable water come out – but that is exactly what we now face. Continued inaction by the water industry means we continue to lose one-fifth of our daily supply to leaks.

“Empty words on climate commitments and unfunded public information campaigns will get us where we’ve got the last 20 years: nowhere. Defra has failed to lead and water companies have failed to act: we look now to the Department to step up, make up for lost time and see we get action before it’s too late.”