Adrian Ramsay speaking at Green Party Conference

The UK is experiencing its second major heatwave in as many months. The extreme heat – made more frequent by the climate crisis – has led to Europe entering its worst drought for decades.

In the UK, private water companies have issued calls for the public to reduce their water usage, with some – including Southern Water and  South East Water issuing hosepipe bans. Meanwhile, three billion litres of water are wasted every single day in England and Wales as a result of leaks in the infrastructure managed by the privatised water companies.

In light of this, the Green Party of England and Wales has called for a series of radical measures to address the drought, as well as long term steps to secure better management of the water system. The Green Party has called for an immediate enforcement order on water companies, along with a cut to executive pay, and an end to dividends to shareholders. The party has also restated its long held policy that the privatisation of water should be ended, with the system brought back into public ownership.

Adrian Ramsay, co-leader of the Green Party, said,

As the country faces a severe drought and people are asked to cut their water use, more than three billion litres of clean water is wasted every day due to a network of pipes riddled with leaks. Shockingly, the most wasteful water companies waste more water than they provide to their customers. It’s time to hold the water companies and the water regulator to account and see some firm action against this scandal.

We need Ofwat to apply an enforcement order on companies to properly carry out their statutory functions – which includes ensuring that water actually reaches people’s homes and sewage doesn’t go into watercourses or end up on our coastline.

But beyond that, the water industry cannot continue to be rewarded for failure. The £57bn paid out in dividends over the last 30 years and hugely inflated salaries of water bosses should have gone towards plugging the leaks. Instead of these companies being awash with profits and leaking funds towards shareholders, Greens say we should cut dividends and ensure water bosses earn no more than ten times the salary of the lowest paid in their companies.

Ultimately, to end leaks, stop sewage discharges and cut bills we need to take the water supply back into public ownership, which is what the Green Party believes must be done at the earliest practicable opportunity.

This call has been echoed by anti-privatisation campaign group We Own It. Cat Hobbs – the organisation’s director – told Bright Green, 

Our privatised water firms lose billions of litres of water every single day due to leaks. Bristol Water, Northumbrian Water, and Severn Trent alone waste 7,500 litres of water every second. This is because they are prioritising paying shareholders and CEOs rather than investing in infrastructure and fixing leaks. If we want to be prepared for the future as heatwaves and droughts become more common, we need to bring water into public hands so it can be run for people, not profit.

Water is privately owned in England and Wales. Welsh Water is a non-profit company. Scotland’s water is in public ownership.

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