Water Bill raises more hackles than spirits

Picture for Expert Witness water storyIn July the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra) published the Draft Water Bill. Under the proposals, which have been published for pre-legislative scrutiny, all businesses and public sector bodies in England will be able to switch their water and sewerage suppliers, allowing them to obtain more competitive prices, improve their efficiency and tender for services better suited to meet their individual needs.

According to defra, evidence suggests that opening up the water market and allowing businesses to switch supplier could deliver benefits to the economy of £2bn over 30 years. In Scotland, after similar reforms were introduced, the public sector alone is set to save around £20m over the following three years.

Secretary of State for Environment, Caroline Spelman said: "This draft Bill will create a modern customer focused water industry and for the first time all businesses and other organisations will be able to shop around for their water and sewerage suppliers.

"By slashing red tape we will also stimulate a market for new water resources and incentivise more water recycling.

"This will ensure that the water industry continues to provide an affordable and clean water supply which is essential for the nation's economic growth while at the same time protecting the environment for future generations."

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) broadly welcomed the Bill, but with certain reservations. Its executive director Nick Reeves OBE said: "CIWEM is pleased that the Draft Water Bill has been published and welcomes many of the government's proposals. Even if more competition in the sector does not encourage customers to switch suppliers on the scale predicted, water companies should be encouraged by the existence of competition to improve and innovate their levels of service."

The CIWEM's members provide an increasing number of expert witness services on the environmental issues surrounding a variety of cases. In particular the institution has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Academy of Experts to accredit water and environmental experts.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was even less enthusiastic, calling the Bill a "damp Squib". It head of water policy, Rob Cunningham, wrote in a guest blog: "...while the public has been preoccupied with droughts and floods, the Government has chosen to use this Bill to increase competition in the water industry. I'm sure economists everywhere are excited, but should this really be a priority for Government action in the water sector?"

It is certain that both organisations will take an active part in the submission of evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which announced on 19 July that it will conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. The deadline to submit evidence is 14 September 2012.

Picture courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 August 2012 12:54