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Government criticised on water efficiency and SuDS efforts

MPs have said the Government has "weakened its water efficiency ambitions" and that it must do more to recognise the benefits of sustainable drainage.

The report, 'Heatwaves: adapting to climate change', was issued on 26 July and warns that temperatures around 38.5°C can be expected every other year by the 2040s, while heat-related deaths are likely to triple to 7,000 a year by the 2050s.

In its introductory summary, it adds: "The UK’s water supply is expected to reduce by 4-7 per cent and this will be exacerbated by the increasing demand for water during heatwaves, particularly in cities. However, the Government has weakened its water efficiency ambitions and continues to fail to introduce sustainable urban drainage systems, which bring multiple benefits."

It said a leaked draft of the 25 Year Environment Plan indicates that the Government originally intended to introduce tighter water efficiency standards into the building regulations. While the regulations set a water efficiency requirement for buildings of 125 litres per person per day, there is an optional tighter requirement of 110 litres per person per day, and the report said: "The original version of the 25 Year Environment Plan proposed making the lower option the default standard."

Anglian Water and Waterwise both submitted written evidence urging higher standards on efficiency, while the latter highlighted the successful implementation of water-use percentage reduction targets in California, with the 'Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life' report identifying that targets have resulted in a 33 per cent reduction in use.

MPs wrote in the conclusions and recommendations section of the Heatwave report that the Government "overlooked industry representations to make per capita consumption standards more efficient", adding: "A water-saving culture needs to be embedded to ensure that people understand the strain heatwaves place on the water supply and to make more water is available during a heatwave. The Government should adopt 110 litres per person per day as the mandatory standard in Part G of the building regulations for all new buildings."

The report also questioned the lack of focus on SuDS, which it said "provide multiple benefits of reducing the urban heat island effect through evapotranspiration, providing irrigation for green walls and roofs and retaining soil moisture".

It continued: "England is the only country in the UK that does not require SuDS for all new developments in its planning policy. In the 2013 National Adaptation Programme the Government promised to make SuDS a requirement by 2014, but this commitment was quietly dropped. This is disappointing especially as it is now over 10 years since the Pitt Review’s recommendation to make SuDS compulsory.

"As the population in dense urban areas grows, the Government should recognise the benefits of an integrated water management system for reducing the urban heat island effect.

"There is no need for further review of the benefits of SuDS. Before publication of the revised National Policy Planning Framework it should be updated to require SuDS in all new developments. Guidance on how to build SuDS to an adoptable standard should also be produced. This would ensure that all local authorities, particularly those with dense urban areas, manage water more responsibly as heatwaves become more frequent."

Author: Robin Hackett, editor, WWT
Topic: Policy & Regulation , Water resources
Tags: climate change , government , Sustainable Drainage Systems (SUDS) , Water Efficiency

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