The Water Industry in the Spotlight
As WSW went to press, we received an interesting story from the European Construction Industry Federation, following its recent annual conference in Amsterdam, which was devoted to the now high-profile issue of water management.
While some European Governments may have a different attitude, and more ability, to invest billions of Euros into water measures such as flood defences, we are all somewhat in the same boat when it comes to the effect of climate change. The FIEC`s president, Thomas Schleicher, has outlined some policy recommendations which put the water industry as well as the construction industry fully in the spotlight. And this means that while the profile and importance of the water industry is coming to the forefront, the challenges in terms of preserving this crucial resource for the future are many.
One of the recommendations was the fairly startling idea that Member States should "force water utilities to mend leaks in the water distribution network," and that the EU has a "key role to play in benchmarking Member States in how seriously they tackle this issue." Obviously the UK`s future role in Europe is a subject that will be under much discussion over the next couple of years, but if we remain within the EU, it is likely the industry will certainly be feeling the pressure like other countries to bring itself up to the standards of the highest performing nations.
The FIEC was wise enough to admit that industry "cannot act alone," however, and that the "right financial and regulatory framework is needed by both national and European policymakers." In addition to other recommendations on ensuring the right investment in infrastructure is made, and that the EU takes action to cope with climate change, it also sensibly suggests that the challenges can`t be met without the early involvement of the private sector in developing the right solutions. Also, the FIEC stresses that the bottom line is that "simply ensuring correct maintenance of existing water distribution pipes is an effective first step to preserving existing water supplies." It states that Europe as a whole wastes 20% of its water "due to inefficiency," and national legislation should be introduced to "force water companies to meet ambitious binding targets to reduce leakage rates." In addition, it recommedends that "user pays" principle must apply, to penalise wastage and reward efficient consumption by consumers.
The FIEC said that the current economic crisis should not be used as an "excuse to defer investment, but rather as an opportunity to stimulate economic activity that will lead to more sustainable growth." This might be a hard message to swallow for many in the UK right now, but it`s certainly food for thought.
Many great examples of water saving initiatives and other `green`-orientated innovations can be found throughout issue 28, showing that the UK industry is already well on the way to addressing some of the concerns, although there may be a long way to go. We know that the expertise as well as the technology exists within the UK water industry to deliver on these tough challenges, if the powers that be put their money where their mouth is on water conservation.
Enjoy your issue and I hope to see you at the next WSW exhibition!