Water users protest at summit exclusion

Industry rails at Ofwat `tepid response’ to offer of partnership

Industrial water users this week criticised the Government for excluding them from its first `water summit’, held this week.

Mandatory leakage targets, better promotion of water efficiency and a review of the water charging system, were among the proposals included in a 10-point plan for improved water services, outlined by the deputy prime minister John Prescott.

Water companies, regulators, and environmentalists were among the groups at the summit chaired by environment minister Michael Meacher. But consumers were not invited. `We were disappointed not to be included in what we feel was a hastily convened meeting,’ said Andrew Bainbridge, director general of the Major Energy Users’ Council, which represents large industrial water users from food and drink to textile companies.

The council had advised the former shadow energy minister John Battle’s energy taskforce and has offered assistance to Ofwat, the water industry regulator, in reducing leakage.

`Industry has lots of experience in tackling leakage and reducing its own water costs,’ said Bainbridge. `We’ve suggested a partnership between industry and the suppliers to tackle leakage but Ofwat’s response has been tepid.’

He dismissed fears expressed by water suppliers that consumers might have to foot the bill for funding repair costs. `The regulator is against it, so is the Government and consumers will certainly resist.’

Bainbridge conceded that industry would have to do even more to understand the implications of climate change which has become an important factor affecting water supplies.

`There needs to be more awareness of where leaks occur and how to solve them,’ he said.

By Arlene Foster