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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Every Drop Counts: Achieving greater water efficiency

This report aims to stimulate debate on how to encourage greater water efficiency and water saving behaviour in existing homes and to influence the ongoing work of the Water Saving Group. It provides an overview of the need to improve water efficiency and why the current twin-track approach of balancing supply and demand is currently tilted towards supply-side measures.

Water is a precious and increasingly scarce resource in many parts of the world. The drought of 2004-2006 has raised awareness of the fragility of water resources in parts of the UK and helped push water issues up the political agenda. There is a growing awareness that there are areas where demand for water is close to outstripping supply. Yet there is a real need to accommodate a rising population, living in smaller, more numerous households particularly in the parts of the Greater South East where water availability is scarcest.

Furthermore, climate change could result in more frequent droughts over the mid to longer term. If we are to manage water resources more sustainably, there needs to be a radical change in how we as a society value, manage and consume water.

This report aims to stimulate debate on how to encourage greater water efficiency and water saving behaviour in existing homes and to influence the ongoing work of the Water Saving Group. The report focuses on two of the most contentious options for reducing water use: water metering and water efficiency targets.

The report's key recommendations include:

    • The Government should develop a Water Efficiency Commitment, whereby water companies are set targets to deliver water efficiency savings in households. There should be a national minimum water efficiency target and enhanced targets for water-stressed areas.

  • Compulsory metering should be accelerated in water stressed areas.

  • Better safeguards should be developed to support poorer households and vulnerable groups, which may include:

  • expansion of the Vulnerable Groups Scheme to cover a wider range of low income customers

  • a government-funded 'water affordability' grant scheme to help qualifying, metered households improve the water efficiency of their homes.