Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the British Soft Drinks Association


  BSDA represents the interests of soft drinks manufacturers, including fruit juice and bottled waters. The industry relies on water as a major ingredient and as essential to manufacturing processes. Bottling plants might use boreholes or mains water supplies for production. Bottlers of Natural Mineral Waters and Spring Waters may only abstract water from the source named on their products and cannot therefore relocate

  The soft drinks industry is committed to reducing energy usage by 13% by 2010 under its Climate Change Levy Agreement with Government. This excludes the water bottling sector which is not eligible to participate in the scheme, despite its wish to be included.

  1.  Frontline management of supply and demand for water is the responsibility of the utilities and, as customers, the soft drinks sector would expect the suppliers to have planned ahead and have made strategic and contingency plans to accommodate any shortages in supply based on sound forecasting.

  2.  The mix of forecasting combined with management plans for supply and demand is crucial for ensuring that water supplies can be maintained. The Environment Agency has an important role to play in assisting with forecasting. As forecasting is not an exact science—predictions of rainfall can never be precise—the water utilities management programmes are required to have "headroom" in order to avoid cut-backs and this is an essential feature of strategic planning.

  3.  The food and drink industry is a priority user as it plays a vital role in providing food to the nation. If cutbacks in usage have to be made, these should be aimed at non-essential uses (eg garden hosepipes) and not at the food and drink industry.

  4.  The water bottling industry also plays a vital strategic role as supplier of last resort. BSDA Members have contracts with the utilities and other public service suppliers, such as hospitals, to provide bottled water in the event that the mains supply becomes undrinkable.

  5.  Not only is water an essential ingredient in drinks, it is also essential to meet the requirements of the Food Safety Act 1990 and Health and Safety Regulations. If these were at risk of being compromised, then a factory would have to stop operating. This is obviously highly undesirable from the point of view of maintaining national food supplies, the competitive position of businesses and employment.

  6.  To provide perspective, household use of water is about double that of "non-household". In turn, "non-household" use is about equivalent to the leakage from the mains system*.

  7.  It is therefore imperative that the utilities tackle leakage which, according to the latest figures, is actually on the increase.* Thames Water has even had to suspend its leakage reduction programme. The Environment Agency needs to insist that leakage management and reduction programmes are positively pursued.

  8.  Conservation of water is a further challenge. Preventing leakage and the loss of water from reservoirs and other catchment areas have to be a key objective for the utilities.

  9.  According to the utilities, it is anticipated that non-household usage will increase whereas non-household use is expected to decline*. Whereas industry is implementing more efficient and sustainable practices—through energy reduction targets under Climate Change Levy Agreements and the requirements of Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC)—there seems to be no equivalent pressure on household usage. It would therefore be invidious to cut back water supplies to industry given its efforts to reduce resource consumption and the essential role it plays in feeding the nation. Ways of containing household demand seem necessary, eg public education programmes to encourage economies in usage.

  10.  The water bottling industry is a highly efficient user of water. The UK industry bottled about 1.7 billion litres in 2004 which is equivalent to less than 10 hours' leakage from the mains water system. Natural Mineral Water and Spring Water must by law be free from pollution at source and these companies therefore have every incentive to protect their water supplies and the surrounding catchment area from contamination. As their businesses also rely on the availability of water, they also have an incentive to sustain the resource.

  *Source: Environment Agency Report "Securing Water Supply", November 2003

British Soft Drinks Association

April 2004

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