Campaigning against water poverty

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2011 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
27 February 2011

‘Campaigning against water poverty’

This Conference seeks that this Service Group, guided by the Service Group Executive, resolves to actively campaign to counter and diminish the effects of water poverty.

With water becoming an increasingly scarce resource, as a result of climate change and increased consumer demand, this matter of water poverty is an issue that this Service Group, both consumers and with members who work in the industry, ought to be at the forefront of in terms of campaigning for fair charging schemes. With companies moving away from flat-rate fees to new charging models that bill customers according to how much water they use, unless measures are enforced to protect vulnerable users, this will become ‘the new fuel poverty’ as water scarcity starts to further increase domestic water bills.

This concern has also been outlined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which defines “water poverty” as when households spend 3% or more of their income on water bills. Low-income households are at particular risk under new charging methods.

In addition, there are particular concerns about how the impact of climate change will affect SW England; the south-west of England, where bills are on average 43% higher than in the rest of the country, is predicted to be particularly affected by water scarcity and increased prevalence of water poverty as the UK becomes significantly drier in coming decades.

This Conference is supportive of measures that are available to increase water efficiency and to limit the domestic carbon footprint, but not on any basis where charging tariffs can put unfair pressure on households that cannot reduce their water consumption, either because of household size, medical needs or an inability to invest in water-efficient appliances.

It is evident that there is a need for policy-makers to consider these social justice issues when preparing and building resilience to climate change, in order to improve the outcomes for vulnerable people. It is crucial that our Service Group takes the lead on this campaign.

This Conference calls upon the Service Group Executive to take a lead on this campaign and to produce guidance and policy to help Branches campaign on this issue.