HC Deb 23 January 1991 vol 184 cc330-1 3.56 pm
Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require a person seeking planning permission for a new building to send an estimate of the annual water requirement of the building to the area water company at the same time as submitting the application for planning permission to the planning authority. This is a conservation measure. Water literally surrounds us all. Hon. Members will be surprised, amazed or delighted to hear that they themselves are 62 per cent. water. Even on this side of the House, the dries just as much as the wets are 62 per cent. water. So it is clear that we all have a great affinity to water. Estate agents are well aware of that. They know full well that a house which overlooks the sea, a lake, a pond or a river will command a premium price. Water is attractive to us all.

However, water is considerably more valuable than simply for looking at. Indeed, in the jargon of the age, water is one of our most precious natural resources. We wash in it. We wash our cars with it. We wash our dishes and our clothes in it. We fill paddling pools with it for our children. We put it on our gardens. I believe that some people even drink it. It is because water is so popular that I hope to obtain leave to introduce my Bill today.

People say that there is plenty of water in the tap, but they do not realise how much they consume. For example, flushing a lavatory takes two gallons. Running a bath takes 18 gallons, or more if one likes to lie in the bath for a long time until the water goes cold and one must let some out and put some more hot in. A washing machine cycle takes 25 gallons of water. A typical household uses 105 gallons of water a day, while a hosepipe or sprinkler uses no less than 220 gallons an hour.

On top of that, it takes one gallon of water to make a pint of beer. It takes 100 gallons of water to make a ton of concrete. It takes 1,000 gallons of water to produce a tonne of steel and it takes 6,600 gallons of water to produce a car —although my figures do not specify whether that would be a Metro or a Rolls-Royce.

The demand for water is increasing all the time. In 1974, total use was 15,000 megalitres per day, while last year it was nearly 17,500 megalitres per day. I apologise for suddenly changing from gallons to megalitres, but it was quite beyond my capacity to convert megalitres into gallons. Besides, megalitres sounds much more impressive.

All that water must come from somewhere. It is derived from various sources, mainly boreholes, reservoirs and rivers. Such is the demand, however, that many sources are becoming seriously depleted. For example, the Rivers Allen and Piddle in Dorset and the Kennet in Berkshire are being ruined. They are beautiful, lovely, living things. What can be more beautiful than a river?

Aquifers are being pumped and, as a result, bores and springs are drying up. In Wiltshire, some bores have not run for many years—due not only to drought but to water usage. The situation is becoming intolerable.

My Bill has two objectives: first, to try to bring home to people how much water a building consumes, in the hope that, in this supposedly conservation-minded age, they will design into buildings as many water-saving devices as possible; and, secondly, to enable water authorities to plan ahead.

I have received comments from several water authorities on my proposals. South West Water supports those two main objectives. It says: There is no doubt of the importance of making our customers aware of the cost and value of the water required to support their proposals, and any advance information which can be provided to the water companies is extremely useful for planning purposes. North West Water stated: It is helpful for customers and potential customers to be more aware of their requirements for water and, of course, we are always keen to know as soon as possible of potential new demand for our services. Severn Trent Water stated: It is a very good idea, and should be extended not only to the erection of a building, but to any change or alteration in any building that requires planning permission. Southern Water stated: It would be of assistance if your proposals could be extended so that notification is given also to the sewerage undertaker. Welsh Water said: We have long felt that any planning applications should be formally referred to ourselves for all the obvious reasons". Northumbria Water stated: Consultation with water undertakers has become more tenuous as we are no longer statutory consultees under the Town and Country Planning legislation. It welcomed my proposed strengthening of the planning legislation.

I believe that the Bill would promote the conservation of water. It would also represent an excellent tool to enable water authorities to plan ahead. I hope that the House will give me leave to bring in my Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Hugo Summerson, Mr. Thomas Graham, Mr. Ian McCartney, Mr. Humfrey Malins, Mr. Tony Banks, Miss Emma Nicholson, Mr. William Hague, Mr. Geraint Howells, Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock, Mr. Andrew Welsh and Mr. Tony Favell.