‘Water Shares’ would create mutual responsibility to preserve water, say leading engineers

Posted: Friday 2nd May 2014

The introduction of a proposed new ‘Water Shares’ system which would see all water abstractors own a share in their local water catchment, could create a sense of mutual responsibility among abstractors to preserve water supply and better promote water trading during times of water stress according to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

In its response to Defra’s “Making the Most of Every Drop” consultation, which seeks to reform the water abstraction management system and address concerns around the impact of current abstraction permits on water supply, ICE said meeting England’s future water needs under current circumstances would become “increasingly challenging” and agreed on the need for abstraction reform.

It also welcomed the concept of a new “Water Shares” option incentivising the trading of water during times of scarcity, claiming it could increase the value abstractors place on water, help to bring about more collaborative approach to managing catchments and ultimately help to provide more resilience to the water sector.

Char of ICE’s Expert Water Panel, Michael Norton, said: “The Water Shares option appears to have trading at the centre of its proposal, a concept we promoted in our 2012 State of the Nation: Water report and welcome. But its benefits depend on effective implementation, responsible management and regulation, and ensuring the system is workable for all concerned.

“Water trading will require increased storage and interconnections. Water companies should be incentivised through the regulatory regime, to develop multi use water resources which benefit society, the environment and industry.”

ICE also urged Defra to push ahead with a proper strategy or “roadmap” which sets out the objectives for the UK’s water resources and how these benefit society, the economy and the environment – also a key call in its State of the Nation: Water report.

Norton added: “While ICE supports the concept of abstraction licence reform there is still no overarching water security strategy. Water use goes beyond the need for utility supply for domestic and business customers; the energy industry, agriculturalists and the environment all demand a share of our water resources.

“Abstraction licence reform would indeed form a part of an overarching strategy - however, without this strategy there is a risk that abstraction reform will progress in isolation and not account for other aspects of improving the UK’s water security, such as increased water storage, interconnections and demand management.”

In June this year, the Institution’s State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2014 report – a “scorecard” style report grading each of the economic infrastructure networks –will set out further recommendations for the UK’s water sector ahead of the May 2015 General Election.

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