Memorandum by Surfers Against Sewage (DWB
We welcome the timely inquiry into this new
piece of legislation. Our response is largely the same as that
to the consultation exercise currently being undertaken by the
Due to the development of the debate and certain
key discussions there may be some additional points that SAS will
be keen to pursue with the DETR. One such stakeholder discussion
is taking place at Water UK on 8 January, 2001.
On the whole Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) feel
that the draft Water Bill addresses issues relating to both water
conservation and regulation (and the interaction of the two),
with considerable success. The powers and duties of the regulators
have been expanded to cover a considerably broader area than under
existing legislation, with far more emphasis being placed on consumer
interests. With the proposal that the consumer become an integral
part of the regulatory process comes the request from SAS that
"the consumer" is more correctly and fairly represented.
It is good to see the value of competition within
the water industry acknowledged by the Government and to see that
in order to increase competition they have recognised the need
for legislative changes. SAS have always called for value for
customers' money and by acknowledging the consumer is rightly
at the centre of the whole regulation debate, so the need and
potential for competition increases. Increased competition brings
better value for customers' money.
SAS are a nationwide campaign representing the
interests of all people who use the coastal and inland waters
of the UK. SAS call for:
1. The greatest environmental benefit per
pound of customers money spent.
2. The capital investment programme of the
water industry to be aimed at the real issue of sewage disposal;
the viruses and bacteria contained therein.
SAS have given written evidence to the 1994
House of Lords Select Committee on Bathing Water, the 1997-98
House of Commons Select Committee Inquiry into Sewage Treatment
and Disposal and to the 1999-2000 House of Commons Environmental
Audit Committee Inquiry into Water Prices and the Environment.
SAS were also called to give oral evidence to
the 1994 and 1997-98 inquiries and would welcome the chance to
give evidence to this Committee should that be required.
Foreward by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister
and Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the
SAS would thoroughly endorse the sentence: "Everyone
is entitled to a reliable source of clean water and a healthy
environment." This is a timeless statement and should be
recognised as such, there are no exceptions, clean water is a
The need to be flexible and efficient is again
something that must be borne in mind. The UK is starting to look
at the whole water industry in a new light, with sustainability
at the core. Flexibility will be an essential part of the development
of the water industry, but flexibility must not mean weakness.
SAS are very pleased to note that the Government
have emphasised the link between investing in our environment
and benefits for the economy. SAS have always maintained that
investing in our environment has an impact on the economy of the
nation as a whole.
SAS wholeheartedly welcome the setting up of
an independent Consumer Council for Water. We will return to this
in the main body of the response.
Our response to this consultation is structured
in sections as they appear in the draft Bill. We have not responded
to all the sections, only to the ones we see as appropriate to
our campaign and to the interests of our members.
8. We welcome the acknowledgement that much
has changed since the current framework for abstractions was created
in 1963. In drafting this new piece of legislation it is important
to look ahead and understand that there is an ever-increasing
pace in the understanding of environmental issues.
One such issue is that of reuse of a final effluent.
This is likely to become a very important issue with relation
to abstraction licences within the UK.
In the Deputy Prime Minister's introduction
to the consultation document he refers to the UK's exporting of
technology throughout the world and the benefits of this to the
economy. Internationally reuse of a final effluent is of huge
SAS' view is that new abstraction licences should
only be granted when the possibility of reuse has been ruled out.
This should only occur once a detailed cost/benefit analysis has
been carried out. In both environmental and economic terms it
is simply inefficient and unsustainable not to reuse a high quality
9. SAS agree that a new approach to abstraction
licences is important in strengthening protection of wildlife
We would also like to raise a secondary issue
in relation to abstractions. It must be taken into account that
in many situations abstractions take place on water-courses where
there are also licences to discharge. These discharge licences
are often determined with dilution as a key factor. If abstractions
are too great this could threaten the required volume for any
dilution of any effluent.
12. 3rd bulletWe are slightly
concerned over the proposed reduction in regulation for small
abstractions and would ask for reassurance that this situation
will not be abused. 20,000 licence holders at 20 cubic metres
a day is a considerable volume of water.
13. SAS would endorse the idea that publication
of licences should be undertaken by the EA with the costs being
met by applicants.
With regard to the procedures for objections
to licence applications, it is important to allow an adequate
timescale for any objections.
18. SAS welcome the increase in the level
of penalties for offences related to abstraction and impounding.
19. We welcome the requirement of water
companies to be placed under enforceable duties to use water abstracted
in an efficient manner. This is an area where water companies
should be required to look at the reuse of final effluents.
23. 1st bulletSAS would welcome
the establishment of a Water Advisory Panel.
We would further comment that this Panel must
be of a broad background that represents all sectors of water
customers, including environmentalists and people across all age
We would refer to a recommendation of the Select
Committee Inquiry into Water Prices and the Environment that:
"OFWAT seeks to ensure that its own statements do not "demonise"
environmental and quality investment by portraying it as the key
upward pressure on prices, without equally emphasising the customer
and public benefits which it delivers."
The make-up of a Water Advisory Panel should
reflect this recommendation.
23. 2nd bulletSAS again welcome
the establishment of an independent Consumer Council for Water
and would ask that, as with the Water Advisory Panel, the make-up
and representation is broad and fair.
With regard to both of these points we would
argue that paid positions should be created. One of the reasons
that OFWAT CSCs and the OFWAT National Customer Council appear
to be out of touch with the real desire of customers is the fact
that only people who have either the money or the time (without
a need to earn a living) have been able to give their time to
serve. This has resulted in an often ageist view of the real desire
of customers. It is important that quality people from all ages
can be represented in proportion to the age profile of water consumers.
23. 5th bulletWe would welcome
a regulatory requirement for the Director to take account of Government
or National Assembly guidance on social and environmental matters.
23. 6th bulletWe would also
thoroughly endorse any move to allow the Secretary of State and
National Assembly to propose new or amended standards of performance
for water or sewerage services, normally in relation to health
or the environment.
23. 7th bulletSAS feel that
it is vital to establish a clear and consistent system/level of
fines which can be applied to any water company that fails to
meet its requirements. The suggested level of "up to ten
per cent of its turnover" is, in our opinion, within the
right financial bracket.
23. 9th bulletRequiring water
companies to disclose any links between their directors' pay and
performance standards can only be good news.
23. 10th bulletSAS welcome
the requirement for the Director, Secretary of State and National
Assembly to justify their key decisions. The Select Committee
Inquiry into Water Prices and the Environment highlighted a failure
on the behalf of the Director to justify some of his key decisions.
A transparent approach is needed and that must be in the true
sense of the word, not just paying lip service to that requirement.
23. 11th bulletBy replacing
the specialist panel for water with a single cross utility group,
water will become more comparable with the other utilities. This
is viewed by SAS as a positive move.
34. We welcome the maximum sentence in a
magistrates court to be raised from £5,000 to £20,000.
This is more in keeping with the level of profits of water companies.
In some cases, a cynical view would be that it is cheaper for
a company to pollute and pay the fine than to comply with its
licence requirements, this should help address the issue.
Public information is vital.
SAS would like to bring to your attention at
this stage the need for more information to be made available
to the public on location at designated bathing waters. We feel
that at the present time the general public are lacking the information
to enable them to make an informed choice about where they go
in the water.
The Environment Agency do publish the bathing
water results for each designated water, but SAS are sure that
more user friendly and relevant information would benefit the
In addition, SAS would also like to see signage
displayed when a CSO (Combined Sewer Overflow) is discharging,
particularly when into a designated bathing water. At the moment
there is no one body that takes responsibility for warning the
general public about such incidents and this is something that
should be clarified. In some areas of the UK, Environmental Health
Officers take on the role, in other areas it is the Water Companies.
It is vital that we establish a system and that this system is
uniform throughout the UK to avoid the "Jaws" syndrome.
See Appendix A.
SAS would support the inclusion of any Clause
that was directly in line with the Government's commitment to
sustainability. This is in keeping with a recommendation of the
Environmental Audit Committee in their inquiry into Water Prices
and the Environment: "We believe that companies do not have
sufficient incentives to promote water efficiency and that there
would be merit in investigating the feasibility of setting company-specific
targets for domestic water use, once a robust methodology for
efficiency measurement has been agreed".
SAS endorse the inclusion of this Clause but
would also ask that it is broadened to cover other types of mines
Every effort should be made to minimise pollution
of water courses from any contaminated land source.
35. SAS welcome any developments in the
law that would strengthen environmental protection and would like
to be reassured that this change will not do the opposite. SAS
successfully utilised section 79e of the Environmental Protection
Act to judicially review Carrick District Councils' decision not
to issue an abatement notice against South West Water. Persistent
sewage-related debris on a local beach was deemed a statutory
New secondary legislation powers
SAS agree that all the listed powers are both
relevant and necessary.
Amendments to existing secondary legislation powers
SAS agree that these amendments are necessary.
In particular allowing the Secretary of State
to make regulations without first requiring an application from
the Director, will enhance efficiency.
New powers to give directions
SAS endorse the proposed changes that create
new powers to give directions.
In particular we support the proposal for the
Secretary of State to determine which matters the Director has
to refer to the Water Advisory Panel for advice.
In addition we agree that it is necessary for
the Consumer Council for Water to be able to access relevant information
from the specific sources listed, both readily and in a format
of their choice.
New powers to issue statutory guidance
Again SAS would agree that guidance in these
key areas is necessary.
Work in progress
SAS fully support any moves to increase competition
within the water industry but agree that this must be done in
a regulated and controlled manner. An integral part of competition
in the future will indeed be restructuring, which will in itself
bring a new aspect to the debate. SAS were interested to read
the proposed new ownership structures for both Yorkshire and Welsh
Water and welcomed the chance to formally respond to the acquisition
proposals. Careful examination of proposed structures and extensive
customer consultation is vital.
Please find attached Appendices:
B, SAS response to OFWAT consultation document
on the proposed acquisition of Dwr Cymru by Glas Cymru.
C, SAS response to OFWAT consultation document
on the proposed restructuring of the Kelda Group.3
SAS feel that it is logical not only to provide
customers with information on their specific water company but
it is important to inform the general public as a whole as to
specifics of company performance. This is particularly relevant
where sewage treatment works are in operation and where a bathing
water may be affected by a discharge. Levels of treatment and
locations of those discharges should be flagged up to the public
With regards to customer information on company
performance, the information must be concise and reader friendly,
otherwise it will simply be a waste of paper. With proposed changes
in water company structure emerging, and a shift in the emphasis
away from the conventional shareholder model, to one more focused
on customer pressure, it would certainly pay to generate more
positive public interest in the industry.
SAS agreed that giving the Agency the ability
to regulate more effectively in the transfer of discharge consents,
SAS would support any move to tighten controls
on any pollutants entering the aquatic environment. We have particular
concerns over hormone disrupting substances, persistent chemicals
and heavy metals, and feel that it is essential for the sources
of these contaminants to be traced, enabling the consenting process
to be applied where appropriate.
It is essential that any flood defence strategy
is viewed in the long term with a regional, as opposed to a local,
approach. SAS would also like to highlight an issue associated
with floodingsewer flooding and the contamination of water
courses with polluted flood water. All effort must be made to
tackle this problem.
We are concerned that unless we have overlooked
it, this Bill does not appear to have included any proposed approach
to the regulation and management of pollution from diffuse sources,
Diffuse pollution is obviously harder to monitor and control than
point source pollution but it would be encouraging to see some
acknowledgement of the problem and perhaps the introduction of
legislation that would attempt in some way to prevent the pollution
occurring in the first place.
SAS are confident that the draft Water Bill
does take into account the majority of relevant issues. It is
good to see the Agency being given more "teeth" in the
form of larger fines and it is also encouraging to see the DG
being involved more in the whole water debate as opposed to just
the financial regulation. We would however highlight the need
to further address the issue of provision of information and to
further clarify the make-up of both the Water Advisory Panel and
the Consumer Council for Water.
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