Updating the determination of water stressed areas in England

Closed 11 Mar 2021

Opened 11 Feb 2021

Feedback updated 1 Jul 2021

We asked

We asked for your opinions and comments on our proposed classification of water stressed areas in England for the purpose of compulsory metering.

You said

We received 54 responses in total. Of these responses, 28 were from individuals, 9 were from water companies, 8 were from environmental groups and charities, 7 were from public or nationally representative bodies and 2 were from businesses. The responses included a range of comments and views which have been summarised in the consultation response document.

We did

Having reviewed the evidence and all consultation responses we carried out some more tests to check the results. We wrote to the Secretary of State with our advice on water stress and he determined the following areas will be classified as areas of serious water stress: 

  • Cambridge Water
  • Portsmouth Water
  • South Staffordshire Water
  • Severn Trent Water – excluding Chester zone
  • Veolia Water
  • Wessex Water
  • South West Water – Bournemouth
  • South West Water – Isles of Scilly

Results updated 1 Jul 2021

Introduction

The purpose of this consultation was to gather people and organisations’ views on the revised approach on determining areas of serious water stress in England.

A lot has changed since the last time the water stress determination was updated in 2013. The National Framework for water resources and water companies’ water resources management plans were published in 2020. Using the latest data from these plans has improved our understanding of water resources needs. This includes the impacts of climate change, pressure on the environment and how to meet the challenges they create.

We have used your responses to this consultation as part of our decision making for our revised approach. We wrote to the Secretary of State with our advice on water stress and he determined the following areas will be classified as areas of serious water stress: 

  • Cambridge Water
  • Portsmouth Water
  • South Staffordshire Water
  • Severn Trent Water – excluding Chester zone
  • Veolia Water
  • Wessex Water
  • South West Water – Bournemouth
  • South West Water – Isles of Scilly

This will allow the water companies to target those areas of greatest need and provide greatest potential benefits by using their water efficiency measures

 

How we ran the consultation

We consulted on the determination of areas in serious water stress in England for 4 weeks from 11 February to 11 March 2021 on our consultation platform Citizen Space and GOV.UK website. We consulted on the following documents:

  • Water Stress Consultation
  • Appendix 2 - Longer Term Environmental Water Needs Enhanced Scenario
  • Appendix 3 - Assessment of Water Stress Methodology

We promoted the consultation through direct email correspondence and workshops with water companies, other regulators and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

We received online responses from the consultation on Citizen Space, by email and post. We have listed those respondents who agreed for their names to be published in Appendix A (page 20 of the consultation response document).

We received 54 responses in total. Of these responses, 28 were from individuals, 9 were from water companies, 8 were from environmental groups and charities, 7 were from public or nationally representative bodies and 2 were from businesses.

 

Summary of key findings and actions we will take

We received broad support for the approach and results contained in the consultation on water stressed areas. However, many suggested that all water companies should be allowed to roll out water meters. This would require legislation. The Government will make no changes to existing rules around when people can be charged for their water use through water meters. Water companies in seriously water stressed areas may implement wider water metering programmes, where it is shown within their Water Resources Management Plans that there is customer support and it is cost effective to do so. This means there will be an increase in the number of areas where this can happen. 

Following your consultation responses, we tested the sensitivity of the results to the risk that planned reductions in leakage and per capita consumption would not be achieved. These tests did not change the final classification. Our consultation response document includes details of what we did.

Some respondents felt that we should give enhanced protection for rivers such as chalk streams and salmon rivers. We agree the importance of these environments and the method we have used has accounted for this. As a result, all areas with principal chalk streams have now been determined to be areas of serious water stress. Salmon rivers were also included in the assessment.

 

Next steps

We have published the updated determination of water stressed areas in England at the same time as this response. We will amend our water resources management plan guidance so that it provides the information on the process water companies are expected to follow in response to which areas are now determined as seriously water stressed and therefore must consider compulsory metering in their plans.

Individuals who wish to follow up their responses, or points made within this document, in more detail are welcome to contact us Water_Company_Plan@environment-agency.gov.uk.

Files:

Links:

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.

Overview

Water is a vital part of our environment. When an area is determined to be in serious water stress by the Secretary of State for the Environment, the water company for that area must publish a water resources management plan that considers all options to manage demand more effectively – including metering and greater leakage reduction.

This is a consultation on our proposed updated method and results for determining areas of water stress in England for metering. The final assessment will provide the Environment Agency’s advice to the Secretary of State.

We have used the latest data produced for the National Framework for water resources and water companies’ water resources management plans that were published in 2020. Using the latest data from these plans has improved our understanding of water resources needs. This includes the impact of climate change, pressure on the environment and how to meet the challenges they create.

We need your views on our updated methods and the data we have used to determine water stress areas, so that we can forward our final proposals to the Secretary of State.

We will use the determination to inform if water companies, in areas of serious water stress can consider charging for water by metered volume for all customers which is called compulsory metering. This is one of the options they can consider in their water resources management plans to manage water supplies.

Why we are consulting

The purpose of this consultation is to gather people and organisations’ views on the revised approach to determining areas of serious water stress in England.

A lot has changed since the last time the water stress determination was updated in 2013, found here. The National Framework for water resources and water companies’ water resources management plans were published in 2020. Using the latest data from these plans has improved our understanding of water resources needs. This includes the impacts of climate change, pressure on the environment and how to meet the challenges they create.

We will use your responses to this consultation as part of our decision making for our revised approach. We will then make our recommendation to the Secretary of State. He will then decide on which areas should be determined as an area of serious water stress. This will allow the water companies to target  those areas of greatest need and provide greatest potential benefits by using their water efficiency measures.

We feel it is important to consult with the organisations and individuals that could be affected by these results.

Please see below for the main Water Stress consultation document, along with Appendix 2 and Appendix 3. 

Water stress consultation document Version1 - 2021.

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 Appendix 2 Longer Term Environmental Water Needs - Enhanced Scenario (below) Version 1

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Appendix 3 Assessment of Water Stress Methodology Version 1 (below)

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The above documents may also be found in the 'related documents' section at the bottom of this page. 

What happens next

We will use the results to assess the suitability of the changes proposed and to understand your views which you have provided through this consultation.

Where appropriate, your views might be used to make further changes to the method before we provide our advice to the government.

We plan to publish a consultation summary document from our responses by Summer of 2021.

Audiences

  • Members of the public
  • Local councils
  • Water companies
  • Members of the public

Interests

  • Water resources
  • Drought