Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants

In response to the call for a response to the Water White Paper from the business sector, I have enclosed some thoughts on the White Paper and the Water Industry in general.

Whitbread believe that the Water White Paper represents a real opportunity to increase competition and improve service for the wider business community.

For Whitbread this would mean being able to fully engage with a single supplier and focus on ways to promote more efficient use of this precious resource.

While only a proportion of our restaurants, Premier Inn Hotels and Costa Coffee shops will use more than the 5,000m3 limit, we hope this barrier will be removed over time.

There is some reservation over how the system will be regulated by Ofwat and how quickly the structures can be put into place. Dealing with complaints is a time consuming and frustrating process, especially where Whitbread have invested in smart metering only to find the Water Company have removed devices without notice or permission or warning.

Our Major concern is that the Bill will be delayed and this opportunity will be lost or watered down and we urge the Government to press ahead with the proposed change, especially after the number of weighty reviews of the Water Industry.

We welcome a move towards a robust regulation that encourages a real price for water and national reduction campaigns that promote best practice in water efficiency retrofit initiatives and end user engagement.

As a large water consumer we want access to the metered data in order to monitor, measure and control our wastage and costs.

Insistence by the Water Companies to use their own metering solutions that may not be compatible with our own internal systems and then charge for the interface seems to lack customer focus.

The White Paper promotes efficiency awareness and the link between water and energy as well as a better focus on water planning processes. What is missing is a direct encouragement and incentive for large companies and SME’s to install SMART AMR water meters to reduce water consumption, understand water footprints and support intended sustainability targets.

In conclusion, unless global water strategy and ownership improves significantly, we will face major challenges in securing enough water to support world populations, underpin economic growth and balance environmental needs. The UK Government have a real opportunity to gain a first move advantage, to ensure water management becomes a priority, and in practice adequately lead societies to value, govern and protect their freshwater supplies for future generations.

January 2012

Prepared 4th July 2012