Sir Ian Byatt writes for Public Service Europe
The price of water in the United Kingdom has risen substantially, but we still have shortages in dry weather. This is not as it should be. Customers should be able to water their gardens and improve their environment at tariffs that are affordable, while covering costs. Barriers have been erected and counter-productive incentives created in the mistaken belief that water is a non-renewable resource. In fact, water is naturally recycled and the important issues are more about allocating it to competing uses – between human beings or the imperatives of environmental policy – than conserving it. We have inherited the Roman ability to store and transport it and added the ability to treat it more effectively.
The drive to attain ever-increasing water and environmental quality at ever-increasing cost has left customers with higher bills. British ministers have imposed environmental obligations on companies, leaving regulators to shift the financing to customers by allowing companies to charge higher tariffs. This is already causing social problems and anger among customers particularly, but not exclusively, in the south west of England. Meanwhile, little has been spent on increasing supplies.
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