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Public 'should be charged more for washing cars'
7:00am Thursday 7th June 2012 in Environment
Meters which charge households more for using extra water to wash cars and water gardens are needed to help tackle shortages, engineers have said.
Despite the recent heavy rain, this year's drought has highlighted the problems surrounding the UK's water supplies, which the Institution of Civil Engineers warns are at a ''critical'' point.
The security of the country's water supply is likely to worsen with a growing population and changes to the UK's rainfall as a result of climate change.
The engineering body said measures were needed, ranging from the construction of new reservoirs and small scale water storage to making it easier to share resources between water companies and encouraging homeowners to save water.
Water use in the home could be cut by around a third, the ICE estimates, but as consumers pay just £1 a day for unlimited water use there is little incentive to value the resource.
Universal water metering with discretionary tariffs that charge households more for high water use for non-essential activities such as cleaning the car, along with social tariffs to protect vulnerable customers, should be introduced, according to engineers.
New properties could be built with systems that recycle rainwater for use in flushing toilets, which use around 30% of the drinkable water supplied to homes.
And urban areas should have drainage systems which retain rainwater so it can be stored or used to recharge groundwater levels, rather than just channelling it straight into drains and out into rivers.
But the ICE ruled out the construction of a ''national water grid'' which could pipe water across the country from areas of high rainfall to places with high demand.
The ICE said such a system would be ''extremely costly'' and energy intensive and would take many years to construct - by which time the situation would have worsened.
Michael Norton, chairman of the institution's water panel, also said that while hosepipe bans had been used to cope with this year's drought as a ''short-term fix'', they were not a long-term solution.
''In our view, they should not be a feature of water supply in the UK in the future,'' he said.
Each person in the UK uses an average 150 litres of water a day, (33 gallons), with many more times that amount needed to produce the food, drinks, clothes and other products used each day.
The report from the ICE gives the UK's water security a rating of four out of 10.
Mr Norton said: ''Water security has reached a critical point and we believe the underlying reason for that is we haven't taken a long-term strategic view about planning our water resources in the UK.''
He said water supplies were under pressure from a growing population and the changing climate.
And he warned: ''We think this is set to worsen unless action is taken, because we are still projecting population growth in the UK, especially in the South East and we are yet to see the full impacts of climate change.''
He also said the UK was reliant on water resources in other countries, where supplies were often scarce, to produce food and goods consumed in this country.
The ICE called for a long-term strategic ''roadmap'' to be developed by spring 2014 for managing water resources in the UK up to 2025 to ensure security of supplies.