National Policy Statement for Water Resources Infrastructure 2018 - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:58 pm on 11th April 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:58 pm, 11th April 2019

The noble Lord asks a question to which unfortunately I do not have the answer at my fingertips. I will write to him and let him know.

The draft NPS suggests that,

“maintaining the current level of resilience in future will require at least an additional 3,300 Ml/d of additional capacity in the water supply system by 2050”,

yet there is no indication of how much capacity could be gained from demand management. In its excellent report on water, the National Infrastructure Commission suggested that aiming for additional capacity of 4,000 Ml/d will require a minimum of 1,300 Ml/d additional supply infra- structure by 2030, in addition to around 1,400 cubic metres being met through leakage reduction and 1,500 cubic metres being met through efficiency and metering. The relationship between the two is not iterated in the NPS.

Although we acknowledge the need for supply infrastructure, it is important that the NPS does not result in perverse incentives against small schemes and schemes that do not meet the NSIP criteria, such as effluent reuse. For example, there remains a total lack of incentives to encourage developers and water companies to work together on projects such as greywater and rainwater recycling. This could help in areas identified by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley. Another example is the potential role of natural flood management in increasing resilience to dry weather and providing storage. What support is available to promote small-scale schemes and green infrastructure projects, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh?

Just as dealing with water leaks varies hugely across water companies, so ambition around demand management varies widely across the country. Some companies are working hard on this, but not all. There is also much variation in per capita consumption targets. On PR19 Southern leads the way on PCC with its target of 100, but only five other companies are still aiming for less than 120 litres per person per day by 2040 to 2045. That is fewer than half of all water companies. Water leakages are around 20%, and the National Infrastructure Commission has said that halving water leakage by 2050 could deliver one-third of the additional capacity required—so leakages are key. What are the Government doing about putting pressure on water companies to deliver on that and avoid the need for one-third of future infrastructure water resource projects, which cause huge disquiet where they are sited?

Page 13 of the NPS states:

“The Government is also exploring other options for reducing consumption’.

Will the Minister spell out exactly what the Government have in mind? When the Water Bill was going through Parliament, these Benches supported compulsory water metering, with reduced tariffs for those in particular need. France has this scheme but the UK does not. Could the Minister say whether the Government are specifically considering this?

Secondly, climate change should be a big driver for the need for new water resource infrastructure. The Government should be leading the way on this issue. Paragraph 2.2.7 sets out clearly that climate change will lead to water shortages. Green NGOs, such as WWF, have argued that all NSIPs covered by this NPS should aim for carbon neutrality, given the long-term nature of the infrastructure and the need for significant reductions in energy use. This may be particularly difficult in relation to desalination plants, which are very energy intensive as fossil fuels currently fuel the plants. However, it is not impossible to reduce the impact, given developing technology and offsetting. I suggest that the Government adopt a hierarchy approach, with developments required to look first at energy efficiency, followed by green energy provision and use, with carbon offsetting as a backstop. Does the Minister agree with this?

Lastly, we support the proposed requirement for a scheme to achieve net environmental gain. However, it should be made clear that net environmental gain must require, first and foremost, a biodiversity net gain, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said. This is similar to that proposed for development under the National Planning Policy Framework. In addition, we support the requirement for an environment statement. This should play a valuable role in understanding the environmental trade-offs and overall approach taken by the developer.

This is a welcome NPS. I look forward to the Minister’s comments and agree with many of the comments that have already been made.