My Lords, this is a very important subject and I thank the Minister for his extensive introduction. Water resources and ensuring that there is a sufficient supply to meet the needs of the nation are extremely important, as every speaker has said. It is life-saving. This is a reasonable piece of legislation and has some significant steps forward, but it is not perfect. I have three concerns to flag up. The first is around demand management. The second is on the need to tackle climate change if we are to have sufficient water into the future; and the third is the need to ensure that all infrastructure development achieves a high net gain for the environment.
Turning first to the important issue of demand management, this NPS does not make it clear how demand management can be prioritised before allowing hard infrastructure solutions. Paragraph 3.5 outlines a need to assess alternatives. This sounds like a box-ticking exercise after a decision has been made, rather than a determination by the Government to ensure that small-scale demand management or green schemes are prioritised. Disappointingly, the objectives set out in paragraph 1.10 do not refer to the need for demand management and its role in minimising the need for additional hard infrastructure and in meeting the Government’s sustainability goals.
The Liberal Democrats have long argued that, instead of focusing solely on new infrastructure, the priority should be lowering demand in the first place. The role that demand management can play in helping reduce demand, and consequently what this means for the scale of need for nationally significant water infrastructure projects, has not been made clear in this NPS. How will the Government prioritise demand management in order to drive down the need for new, expensive infrastructure?