Defra White Paper Signals Water Reforms

A new approach to water management was announced before Christmas by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.  “Making sure we’ve got enough water for everyone is going to be one of the major challenges this country will have to deal with in the years ahead” said Mrs Spelman.

Mrs Spelman’s warning came as she published long-term plans to ensure the future water sector is resilient, water companies are more efficient and customer-focussed and water is valued as the precious resource it is.

The white paper sets out the government’s proposed reforms to the water industry in England prior to the publication of a draft Water Bill.

Key reforms

The white paper reaffirms Defra’s new catchment approach to dealing with water quality and wider environmental issues, giving communities and interested parties a bigger say on water issues in their catchment. 70 catchment pilots will be supported across the country by Defra and the Environment Agency, with a focus on 25 to be evaluated in early 2013.

The Government will also make its own contribution to a campaign to save water and protect the environment, working with water companies, regulators and customers to pass consistent messages and raise awareness of the connection between our water use and the quality of our rivers and the ecosystems they support, and to deliver lasting change in the way water is used. 

Other key reforms described in the white paper include the extension of competition in the water sector by increasing choice for businesses and the public sector and by making the market more attractive to new entrants, dealing with the legacy of over-abstraction from rivers, removing barriers to trading of abstraction licences and bulk water suppliers to allow a more flexible supply system, encouraging water companies to introduce social tariffs for vulnerable customers, and introducing a reformed water abstraction regime in the long-term.

What happens next?

The Government will publish a draft Water Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny in early 2012 and introduce a Water Bill as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

The Welsh Government has indicated that it will be publishing a new Strategic Policy Position Statement on water in early 2012, setting out its intentions for future water management in Wales.

Further reading

A more detailed summary (from which the above is taken) can be found here:

The “Water White Paper – Water for Life” document can be found here:

The white paper supporting reports from the Environment Agency can be found here:

The defra white paper press release can be found here: