§ 2.36 p.m.
§ LORD HAWKE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they 'have to ensure that the future water supplies of this country meet the anticipated increasing demands of the future, particularly in the South-East; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the fact that for the first time within my recollection there are no Questions on the Order Paper on a Wednesday must not be taken by Her Majesty's Government to mean that we are satisfied with their conduct of our affairs. My Lords, when people turn on a tap they expect to find water, but they do not realise that it takes years of thought and millions of pounds before that water comes out of the tap. I have had a Motion of this sort on the Order Paper for a considerable time, with two objects: first of all, to discover what Her Majesty's Government were doing in respect of the future and to make sure that they were doing something; and, secondly, to bring home to people the very large sums of money and other considerations involved.
§ The Water Resources Act 1963 provides that river authorities should make a survey of the needs and the resources of their respective areas; and, in spite of a flurry of licensing work, and so on, that work is presumably being carried on. But the Water Resources Board, seeing that in their opinion the needs of the South-East of England were much more urgent than those of other regions, thought it advisable to make an overall study of this region themselves in advance of the piecemeal survey by the river authorities. The committee of experts who made this survey were largely drawn from the component river authorities. If as a layman I may venture to say so, I 66 think the study is an excellent one, although it is rather technical in places, and it makes very interesting reading even to the layman.
§ Their first task, of course, was to estimate future consumption in the light of the likely trends of population and water use per head in the future. They found difficulty—I can understand why—in assessing these factors, so throughout their Report they adopted the strategy of planning plentifully for the near future in the knowledge that they could either modify or hasten plans for the far future. That seems to me a sound approach. Of course, the fact that there is urgent need in the South-East does not mean that, in the future, there will not be urgent needs elsewhere in the country, but the Water Resources Board consider that the needs in the South-East will arise before those in the other regions, and they therefore await the respective reports of the river authorities for these other parts of the country. So I shall be dealing chiefly with the South-East on the basis of this excellent Report.
§ The South-East is taken to be all that part of the country east of a wavy line joining the western corner of the Wash with the western boundary of Dorset. In this area there are about 19 million people at the present time, and it is expected that there will be 22 million by 1981 and 28 million by the end of the century. In 1964 the statutory water undertakings supplied these people with 32 gallons per head per day domestically, and 21 gallons industrially—a total of 53. In addition, there were drawings of water representing about 11 gallons per head per day by industrial users, such as power stations, which drew direct and not though the water undertakings. The breakdown of the domestic consumption is rather interesting: drinking and cooking, one gallon; dish-washing and cleaning, two gallons; laundry, three gallons; flushing and refuse disposal, eleven gallons; washing and bathing, ten gallons; car-washing, half-a-gallon; garden and recreation. one-and-a-half gallons; and waste in distribution, four gallons. So the two major users are bound to increase as more houses are fitted with flush lavatories and bathrooms.
§ They have to estimate future demand, although it is really difficult to do so, 67 and to take into consideration three factors: first of all, the size of the population, then the consumption per head and then the industrial growth. I will not mention much about industrial growth because other noble Lords will be speaking on that subject. One knows that gallonage per head is going up and that the population is expected to increase. After a lot of thought, the Committee decided to recommend a figure increase of 3.1 per cent. per annum simple, which is very roughly in line with the rate of increase over the previous ten years. That would mean that for supplies through the water undertakings the gallons per head per day would go up to 80 at the end of the century. This would roughly represent a doubling of the present overall consumption; in other words, an increase from about 1,000 million gallons per day to about 2,000 million gallons per day at the end of the century for a population of 28 million. Moreover, the Board think that their figure for the end of the century is the lowest possible, unless the population figures prove wrong—and, of course, they could prove wrong.
§ My Lords, how are we to meet the deficit? First, is there enough water overall? The rainfall over the whole country averages about 36 inches, ranging from 100 inches to 20 inches. In the South-East, it averages 27 inches, varying from Dorset to Essex. About half of the rainfall is lost through evaporation and transpiration, and most of that occurs during the summer; so the summer rain is no good for our water supply. The run-off available for impounding varies from 4 inches in Essex to 20 inches in Dorset. This represents, over the whole area, something like four times the current consumption. Of course, one cannot impound it all, because the rivers must be kept flowing; but the water is there and it is chiefly a question of catching it.
§ There is a tendency to think fancifully in terms of water, of vast, dramatic schemes to bring water from Wales, from the Lakes, and so on, through gigantic pipelines into the drier areas. The Board consider schemes of this sort expensive and unnecessary, as the South-East area can get its water supply within its own catchment area. The deficit, of 68 course, is not spread evenly over the south-east. Some parts, such as Sussex, parts of Kent, Hampshire, Dorset and Suffolk, are expected to be self-sufficient and, indeed, to have a surplus. The deficit area is represented roughly by half a circle from Northampton to Buckinghamshire to the Thames Valley and out through Essex.
§ The main strategy of the Report is based on taking the minimum land for storage, using the rivers to move the water and keeping the water cost as low as possible. The two important consequences flowing from these considerations are that the Board want to use nature's reservoirs as much as possible—in other words, underground water—and they want the rivers to be kept reasonably clean. If we can manage to do these things, then the taking of land for storage and the need for pipelines will be kept to the minimum; if we cannot manage to do these things it will mean making much more man-made storage, with its consequent effect on land use and so on.
§ There are two alternative systems: we can hold up water in storage reservoirs and pipeline it to the treatment reservoirs for use, or we can use rivers to transport the water to treatment reservoirs by regulating their flow by impounding water in the winter and letting it out into the rivers in the summer. That is the better and the cheaper system favoured by the Water Resources Board, modified by the maximum use of underground storage to save land and cost, for underground water is much cheaper than stored water. If we do not get the results we expect from this we shall have to fall back on other expedients, so the Board want geographical studies to be put in hand for a number of the storage works which they hope they may not require. Also, in case of a long-term short-fall, such as miscalculation of population, miscalculation of consumption or overestimating the amount of water which may be got from underground, the Board want a feasibility study made as quickly as possible of the Wash Barrage. I understand that the paper work has been started, but that work on the site has been called off for the sake of economy.
§ In this Report there are in detail a number of schemes and alternates and 69 reserves which I will not go into here, but there are one or two interesting features which arise. First of all, there is underground storage. The plan relies a lot on being able to obtain underground water for the Thames. The Board want to go forward with experiments which have been started by the Thames Conservancy (I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford will mention them) designed to pump out the chalk in the summer and leave a greater storage space in the chalk for the winter rain. There are pilot schemes intended for Lambourn and also in the Ouse Catchment. The result would be more water in the rivers in summer and less in winter than now. I presume that the Lambourn scheme would top up the Kennet. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, views with equanimity the idea of being "topped up". It is thought that the chalk underlying London, in which the water level has sunk over the years through heavy withdrawals, might be topped up also; but nobody knows what would be the effect of doing this with untreated water, and the supply of treated water, naturally, is not very freely available. In any case, it is all rather experimental.
§ Then, my Lords, there is the question of the re-use of water, particularly in the Thames. The upstream effluent becomes the downstream water resources, and they reckon that if they can put enough water in the top of the Thames, the shortage of London and the Lea Valley, and so on, will be looked after. That is where it becomes so important to improve the cleanliness of the rivers. It is not so much sewage effluent which is the danger, because that tends to correct itself through aeration over the weirs and in flow, but it is the industrial effluent which we have to try to keep out, or which must be purified before we let it back into the rivers. I made careful inquiries about what would happen if a drum of deadly poison got into the Thames. I was assured that it is all under control, and that is a comforting thought, but I am not quite sure how it is under control. I read in the Press that in East Sussex at the moment the re-use of water is being actively practiced—of course, the water of the Rhine is used a great many times before it reaches the sea.
§ There are other quite practical schemes which the Board would prefer not to use. 70 Welsh water could be brought into the Thames. It would be expensive, but it could be done by regulating reservoirs in the Welsh Hills or by impounding reservoirs near the mouth of the Wye or the Severn in England. This scheme would be liable to heighten the blood pressure of bird-watchers, botanists and Welshmen, and it could be said that it was being done at the expense of the future needs of the West Midlands. So it would create an awful lot of trouble. Then, of course, there is talk of water barrages across Morecambe Bay, the Solway Firth and so on, but it would be very expensive to bring water from there, and the water would arrive much too late. The need will arise before barrages can come in.
§ Water from the sea has some advocates and the Board would like to see experimental plant on a full scale set up in this country. Not only would it probably be a very good "shop window" for exports, but it would be possible to arrive at a proper and realistic costing of the water. At present the price of water is very elastic. It depends entirely on how you allocate the costs between electricity and water. In the March number of Optima, the Anglo-American Corporation house journal, there is an interesting table which gives a graph of electricity and water prices based on the theoretical performance of the best advance gas-cooled reactor. With electricity at 0.4d. per unit, water comes out at 4s. 3d. per thousand gallons. That is a good deal more than the cost of most of the water consumed in this country, but is within striking distance of marginal supplies, and an experiment in the use of low pressure steam from an atomic power station on a big scale would be very useful from the point of view of knowledge for this country and for exports to desert countries, because this is a business in which we are supposed to be very good.
§ There is the question of the capital involved in all this. The Board put the cost of the South-East region at £410 million for supply, and £300 million to £350 million for distribution over the 35 years. The Wash barrage at £250 million could substitute some, but not a great deal, of its expenditure. In addition. there is the huge expenditure involved in enlarging sewage treatment plants which 71 would have to deal with the correspondingly extra amount of water, and also for providing plant where it does not properly exist to purify some of the effluent which goes into the rivers. But all the schemes are costed in the Report, and mostly come out at under 2s. per thousand gallons.
§ My Lords, I will mention one or two further points of interest. Spray irrigation is rather an unknown quantity. No one knows what crops it will pay to irrigate, and what will be the price of strawberries and the price of water at the end of the century. The Board have allowed for an increase in spray irrigation, but their advice to anyone who wishes to rely on irrigating his crops in a dry year is, "Build your own storage to store the winter run-off and be sure". Reading the Report, fishermen may have doubts and qualms, but I think they may be assured that the Board are pretty "fishy minded". In fact, one of their officials told me he would like to see salmon running up the Thames again in his lifetime.
§ The Board does not eliminate reservoirs; it only minimises them, and a Wash barrage could not arrive in time to relieve the position in the next fifteen years. So, if we are going to have reservoirs, let us have them so that they are of use for something else besides storing water. We do not want reservoirs which the public cannot approach because there is not enough plant to de-contaminate the water after its contact with the public, as I believe is the case at Thirlmere. Let our reservoirs be available for fishing and sailing and other amenities, as is the reservoir at Diddington. We want to make quite sure that powers to acquire sites for water authorities are sufficient to enable them to build something that is a sailing place as well as a water reservoir.
§ But I think there is something much more fundamental in the Report, and that is the doctrine of sharing of water. With river boards each looking to the needs of their catchment area, there is a danger of localised thought. They might say to themselves, "Let us provide for our local water undertakers and earmark any reserves in our area for our future needs. We will, of course, estimate liberally and let the rest go hang." This will 72 not do. At the same time, local people must feel assured that if they export water in the short term and should happen to want water for themselves in the long term, their needs will be met in due course. This is the function of the Water Resources Board. Unless they can ensure against "dog in the manger" and keep private confidence alive, their long-term plan cannot work, and we should have to fall back on the alternatives, which will use more land and be more expensive. It is not too late and it is not too early to start planning in these matters, but it is no good cheeseparing on research and field work now, because if we want water flowing when our grandchildren turn on the tap, we have to start making plans now. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.3 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, it is customary on a Motion of this sort to start by congratulating the mover on his choice of Motion and upon his opening speech. I must admit doing this occasionally a little bit tongue in cheek, if it falls to my lot to prepare the speech in reply, but to-day my tongue is not in my cheek because on this matter of water conservation, my wife assures me, I am a bit of a crank. I never pass a reservoir in the part of Wales with which I am most familiar, especially after a time of drought, without looking at the level of the water a little apprehensively and wondering whether it is going to last out.
The problem which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has placed before us to-day is how in the years ahead, up to the end of this century, the water that we simply must have can be conserved and will be available for the use of the population that will certainly follow us. This is a particularly opportune moment to debate this matter, because we have before us this interesting and useful Report prepared by the Water Resources Board. They have tackled at the very outset the most problematical area in the whole country—namely, the South-East.
Your Lordships will know that the Water Resources Board were established under the Water Resources Act 1963. They have begun to discharge their functions of advising the Minister and the river authorities about the conservation of water. Although passed by a Tory Administration, I praise the 1963 Act as 73 a timely and wise piece of legislation—I never mind praising Administrations of the Party opposite in a matter like this because opportunities for praise happen to be so rare, but this is one of those occasions when they passed a really first-class piece of legislation which is now beginning to show its effect. The 1963 Act has equipped this nation organisationally with excellent tools, in the shape of the Water Resources Board and the river authorities, to plan our water strategy on a national scale and to produce a conservation policy that makes sense in the broadest terms. Admittedly the total strategy will take time to produce, but preparations are going forward, I am assured, on a broad front.
The Board's first Report has been, as the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, has said, wisely concentrated on the area of greatest difficulty—namely, the South-East. I understand that the next Report is likely to concern itself with the North-West, and judging by past experience in this House, I imagine that that Report is likely to be a little controversial. It is too soon to say when that Report will be published, and I mention it now only to show the lines upon which the Board are planning their work, tackling the difficult areas and ensuring that the problems are looked at not only in relation to these areas but also in relation to the nation as a whole and its resources. Here I support very much what the noble Lord said, that we cannot and dare not think only in terms of water that happens to be available to us in our immediate locality. We must think in terms of planning the nation's water as a whole, and I say this equally to my Welsh compatriots and to others who think in terms of, "This water is ours and we must reserve it solely for our use". This is nonsense. We must share what happens to fall on this Island in such a way that the advantage will accrue to the nation as a whole. Otherwise we shall have wasteful schemes and shall be doing a lot of stupid things with our comparatively scarce water resources.
Apart from these generalities, I am going to concentrate my speech on the South-East, leaving it to my noble friend Lord Kennet to deal with the broader aspects of this matter which will undoubtedly be raised in the debate after I have sat down. It is, of course, to the South-East that the noble Lord, Lord 74 Hawke, devoted the major part of his well-informed speech. Clearly he has done his homework on this and given us the benefit of it. The South-East is an extraordinary part of England. It is the area with the greatest concentration of population and consequently with the greatest demand for water. It is also in part the area in which there is the least water to be had. It is worth mentioning, I think, that the Government started work on the water problem in the South-East before there was even a Water Resources Board. The Ministry of Housing commissioned an expert report on the underground water resources of the Great Ouse region before the Board began to function. That report has now been made and it is part of the data available to the Board.
The situation which the Board and the river authorities inherited in the South-East was one in which considerable quantities of water were already being transferred from one area to another, and the growing demands for water necessitated a regional plan for resources that are available and ought to be made available. The Board began their work by bringing together the ten river authorities concerned and setting up a technical committee of the authorities' engineers concerned and their opposite numbers from the water undertakers. Their terms of reference were to assess demands for water for all purposes in the South-East of England to the end of the century; to determine the resources available, and to consider the system by which water would be distributed in bulk to major users.
That technical committee reported in the spring of this year, and their report was published in July, accompanied by a document which the Water Resources Board had produced. That document set out the Board's conclusions upon the report of the technical committee. I am not going to attempt a summary of either the report or the Board's conclusions upon it, except to say that what has emerged is that the problem facing everyone concerned with the provision of water in the South-East is that of providing an extra 100 million gallons per day within the next five years, a further 300 million gallons per day in the following decade, and an additional 700 million gallons per day by the end of the century. These are tremendous quantities.
75 On present supplies, the Board think that there are five river authorities in the South-East with potential resources sufficient to meet their estimated demands for the rest of the century. These areas are Avon, and Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent (outside the area of supply of the Metropolitan Water Board) and the East Suffolk and Norfolk area, excluding Ipswich and South-East Suffolk. The other areas of the region, those of the Thames and Lee Conservancy Authorities, the London Excluded Area, and Welland and Nene, Great Ouse and Essex River Authorities need a planned development of new resources estimated at 85 million gallons a day, in 1971, 270 million gallons a day in 1981, and 650 million gallons a day in 2001.
In reviewing ways of meeting these deficiencies, the Board have included every known method of producing water, not just the conventional ways. They are considering the use of storage—both surface and underground—to regulate flow in rivers; to the artificial recharge of underground storage; to estuarial barrages, particularly the Wash; to the desalting of sea water; and to the transfer of water into the area from the Westand the South-West. However, only the abstraction of water from underground strata and the construction of more surface storage can be relied upon to make more water available during the next ten years. Bearing that in mind, the Board propose a progressive programme that will make full use of all additional supplies which can be obtained fairly quickly from works already authorised, and to authorise new works which will take full advantage of existing river flows without requiring large new storage reservoirs.
The Board also propose to get the maximum yield from underground resources, which means saving agricultural land and capital investment on reservoirs. This will involve new techniques to enable increased use to be made of storage in underground strata and to augment river flows with underground water when necessary. The Board hope that large additional supplies can be produced in this way from the chalk in both the Thames and Great Ouse areas. This is the method described by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke. If the Board are right, only one large storage reservoir will be needed before 1981, although smaller storage reservoirs 76 will be needed in the outlying parts of the region. This will provide invaluable time for studying the results of work on desalination and on barrage schemes, so that a realistic comparison can be made between them and the more conventional methods of water supply. What they are recommending is, first of all, a programme of works to meet the foreseen deficiencies during the next decade, coupled with an urgent programme of investigations which must be completed by the early 1970's so that the whole situation can then be reviewed. The investigations cover a wide field, ranging from pilot schemes for the development of ground-water storage and the survey and exploration of possible reservoir sites to a feasibility study of a barrage across the Wash; further work on desalination; and the transfer of water from the West and/or South-West into the Thames area.
I think that the House would like to know what action has been taken since the Report was published in July of this year. In paragraph 44 of their Report the Board summarise the programme of works and investigations which appeared to them to be necessary and about which they would be consulting the river authorities and other bodies and interests cocerned. On Wednesday next the Board will be meeting representatives of the ten river authorities in the South-East to learn their views on the Report and to plan the action to be taken by the Board, the river authorities and others to implement its recommendations. All action has not, however, been deferred, pending the outcome of that meeting, and I am now going to give a summary of what is already being done.
The Metropolitan Water Board have resolved to go ahead with the construction of the Datchet reservoir. The Essex and Great Ouse authorities are investigating a scheme to transfer water to Essex from the River Ely Ouse; and the Thames Conservancy are investigating the Sunny-meads intake scheme. The Water Resources Board and the Welland and Nene and Lincolnshire authorities have agreed to undertake an investigation of the ground water resources of the Peterborough area. The Board have received within the last ten days the Thames Conservancy's detailed proposals under Section 18 of the 1963 Act for their pilot ground-water scheme in the Lambourn Valley. If this scheme is approved by the 77 Board, it is hoped that a start will be made on it before the end of the year, subject to all necessary consents and authorisations being obtained. These will necessitate planning permissions, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will know; and I am sure he will be hoping that these consents, authorisations and planning permissions will be forthcoming. We certainly want to get on with these schemes as soon as possible. The Lambourn Valley scheme, I understand, will extend over, three years and is a major investigation. The preliminary work necessary to the formulation of an investigation scheme under Section 18 of the Act is in hand in the Great Ouse Area. The River Authority have appointed consulting engineers and are working closely with the Water Resources Board's Geology Division. In addition to all that, there is a phased programme of surveys and explorations of reservoir sites in hand for completion by the end of 1967.
I have been asked, and rightly asked, what is the Government's attitude to this Report. It can be said, I think, straight away, that this Report appears to us to be a realistic appraisal of the water problem of the South-East and the Government envisage no difficulty about the provision of the necessary loan sanctions and finance. But this is, at this stage, with one exception. That exception is that the Government cannot at present commit themselves either way to a feasibility study of the Wash Barrage scheme. This imaginative proposal has, understandably, attracted a great deal of attention, but it must be remembered that the Water Resources Board's Report canvassed a number of important proposals, and it is worth pointing out that the Board came to the conclusion that, given an extensive re-use of water, the most economical and beneficial way of meeting the expected deficiencies is by a programme of controlled ground-water development and pumped storage reservoirs, perhaps supplemented in the last decade of the century by the transfer of water into the Thames from the West or the South. The Board do not, therefore, give first preference to a Wash barrage, but that is not to say that it would not merit further investigation, especially if some of the other proposals do not come up to expectation. The cost of a feasibility study is estimated at £1½ million, so it is under- 78 standable that the Government are not prepared to commit themselves immediately to that sort of expenditure. In passing, I must say that I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that a feasibility study was started and has now been stopped on the grounds of economy. As I understand it, a feasibility study, as mentioned in the Board's Report, has never been started.
My Lords, I think I must have made a miss-statement. I never intended to say that a feasibility study had been started, but I think a lot of desk work has been done which would be wasted unless a feasibility study followed.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, that is quite right. A certain amount of desk work has been done in preparation for a feasibility study later on. I thank the noble Lord for his correction, and I accept, of course, that that is what he meant.
The noble Lord, Lord Hawke, rightly stressed the need for care about re-using water. When the Report talks about the "re-use", it means that water taken out of a river for public supply contains a proportion—possibly a large proportion—of water which has already been used for public supply at least once and has been discharged again to the river as effluent after purification. Besides getting our terms right—and we have to get them right in this connection, because so many people talk about "drinking sewage" and that sort of thing—we must get our perspectives and our facts right. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that we must get our effluent right if we are to re-use the water, as in fact is being done and will have to be done increasingly in the future. A large proportion of our used water is already being re-used, but its safety as a source of drinking water (assuming it receives the normal treatment after abstraction) is beyond question at present. That has been demonstrated by decades of experience, and nothing proposed in the Board's Report suggests that in the short term there will be any change.
The Board's proposals in the longer term may well entail taking water for public consumption from some rivers which will contain a great deal more used water than in the past: so much so that 79 at times the whole amount of water taken may have been used already once or even oftener. Clearly it is of the highest importance to ensure that such rivers do not under this pressure become unsafe or unacceptable sources of supply. This will need—and will receive—close attention both in the South-East and elsewhere.
There is little doubt in the South-East about the immediate future—that is to say, the next ten years or so. We do not believe that the amount and extent of reuse conceivable in the next decade or so could possibly go beyond what the rivers could safely carry. In saying that, the Department's technical advisers have had in mind the whole physical characteristics of the rivers in question—the length, volume, the present volume of discharges and the probable increased amount of effluent discharged and the number of points of discharge.
In the long term there will be many rivers in the country for which a confident assurance could also be given. But for some the answer would not be so clear. There will have to be a special series of studies in each case to determine whether the water could satisfy the quality required of public supply and what would need to be done, in the way of controlling more tightly existing and future discharges, to ensure that public supplies remain safe, palatable and of the highest quality. Perhaps I ought to add here that during this month the Ministry of Housing and Local Government have sent out a memorandum on the technical problem of sewage effluent which urges the responsible bodies carefully to consider whether standards previously considered adequate are now suitable and, if not, to make the necessary adjustments and alterations.
In conclusion, I think I can say in answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, about plans that there are detailed and well-considered plans for meeting the increasing demands for water in the South-East. These plans cover both short and long term; that is to say, the next ten years and the next thirty-odd years. Inevitably there are gaps to be filled in, and changes may have to be made—for example, if there happens to be a major break-through in desalination. In the meantime, we have certain definite 80 potentialities on the surface and underground, and these are being diligently explored. We believe that everything possible is being done to meet the demands of the South-East, and that they can be met as and when they mature. The Government look forward to this debate, to see whether anything emerges to-day, as I hope it will, that deserves the study of the Ministers concerned.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for his interesting and helpful reply to my noble friend Lord Hawke, and I shall have a comment to make on one or two of his observations as I proceed with my speech. May I first congratulate my noble friend Lord Hawke on raising this question to-day and for giving your Lordships the opportunity to discuss this most important matter. May I also thank him for the admirable exposition which he gave us, both of the problem as a whole and of the particular problem of the South-East revealed in the Report of the Water Resources Board. This has put the whole matter into a clear perspective, just right for us to discuss now.
First, perhaps I should declare that I have an interest in this watery world. I am Chairman of the Thames Conservancy, and I am also President of the River Authorities Association; so I have quite a bit to do with water. With regard to rivers, of course much more is involved than what we do with the water itself. What the river looks like is in the interests of the community, and everyone who has anything to do with rivers is conscious of the trust he holds to keep constantly in mind the amenity and recreational interests of the whole community.
I am sure it comes as a surprise, not to you, my Lords, who are the cognoscenti, but to the man in the street, that we in this country should be short of water. The heavens are so generous to us most of the time, and certainly have been in the last few days, that our mackintosh and umbrella are our constant companions, and it seems extraordinary to think we could be short of water; but it is perfectly true we are going to be short of water in the next few years, as this admirable Report forecasts. Indeed, if we get a dry 81 summer in the 1970–71 period we shall undoubtedly be short of water in some areas in the South-East unless we can get some of these conservation schemes under way.
The shortage that is predicted by the Water Resources Board is some 85 million gallons over the whole South-East and 33 million gallons in the area for which the Thames catchment authority is responsible. Of course, this becomes a matter of urgency when you look, as I have to look, at the works that are required to meet the shortages which will then arise, because in fact next year the Sunny meads scheme, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, will have to start. That is a scheme which will take water from the River Thames up into the Hertfordshire area to a tributary of the River Colne in order to supplement supplies there, and the water undertakings concerned will have to get this work started next year if the supply is to be available for drinking and domestic purposes in the 1970–71 period. So there really is no time to lose.
The overall position, as my noble friend Lord Hawke rightly said, is that there is enough water. The shortages are local and seasonal shortages. The problem to meet the shortages is dealt with in three ways; first, by transfer of water from the high-rainfall low-density areas, principally in the West, to the low-rainfall high-density areas in the East and South-East; secondly, by conservation, somehow conserving winter surpluses so that they are available to supplement the summer shortages; and, thirdly, by a better purification of effluents to higher standards to allow further re-use of water. Here may I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hawke on the wise comments he had to make on this particular point.
It is perhaps of interest to mention to your Lordships the very high degree of re-use which is quite safely and successfully made to-day regarding the River Thames. Consider for an instant that there is a large town, Swindon, at the headwaters of the River Thames; not far away is the great city of Oxford, and not far from there are the city of Reading and a large number of other towns, villages and conglomerations of residents up and down the River Thames. The effluents of all those urban areas have 82 to go into the Thames, and at the end of it all the Metropolitan Water Board takes some two-thirds of its total supply for us Londoners as our drinking water. So this water has been not only used and re-used but used several times over. Fortunately the Metropolitan Water Board is a highly efficient body and the water supply to Londoners is some of the best water supplied to any population in the world, and is perfectly safe. But this situation does perhaps demonstrate how much is being done—and, indeed, much more can be done and much more will have to be done if we are to have a sufficient supply of water—in the purification of water from the effects of effluents to make the use and re-use of water completely safe.
My noble friend Lord Hawke asked what would happen in the River Thames if some factory unfortunately discharged a tub of poison into the river. Of course, anything may happen with literally thousands of factories and works that exist in the catchment area, and occasionally such accidents do occur. Fortunately, whenever they do happen they are immediately reported, and immediately the Conservancy acts to alert all water undertakings who have intakes on the river so that they immediately close them during the period in which poison is passing down the river. We know how long it takes to pass each point in the river, and so we know when it is quite safe to say that it has passed and gone over the weir at Teddington and out to sea. After it reaches there people do not think of drinking it; in fact they get as far from it as they can. So the river is kept safe by a very strong organisation of river purification and inspection.
The point I want to make to Her Majesty's Ministers opposite is this. As the volume of consumption continues to increase by all these methods we have been speaking about today, so the volume of the effluents is going to increase too. The standards that are commonly worked to for maintaining purity as regards effluents are called the Royal Commission Standards, and they provide for an 8:1 dilution of river water to effluent. But, of course, it is quite inevitable that as the volume of effluent grows throughout the country this proportion of 8:1 becomes quite impossible to maintain. 83 As the River Thames is passing by Oxford in the periods of low flow there is only a flow of about 40 million gallons a day. By the time they have the extension of their modern sewerage works completed there and are up to their full capacity they will have an effluent volume of over 20 million gallons a day; therefore they will not have as much as 2:1 dilution. So we must ask, and ask again, for higher standards of effluent if we are to maintain the general quality of the river water. We are fortunate in a river like the Thames because at every lock—and there are 44 of them—it has a beautiful weir and that automatically oxygenates the water and goes some way to restore its purity, but basically we must depend on the purity of the effluent itself.
Here I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he replies if he will say a few strong, and I hope comforting, words to your Lordships that it is the intention of Government to require and advise the river authorities to increase the standards of effluent, even though the cost is considerable and not unnaturally local authorities have projects other than sewerage works they would like to spend their money on. Here I say to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, how much I welcome his statement that a circular has gone out to local authorities to call their attention to this particular problem. I am sure this is a matter of first importance. It takes some years to get these schemes completed, and it is not always easy unless we get the full support of Government.
Let me now turn to the question of conservation and transfer. Here I should like, if I may, to pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who I am so glad to see sitting with us on the Front Bench, because my noble friend was the Minister of vision some six years ago who foresaw the necessity for a national water policy, which the Water Resources Act 1963 brought about and which we have been talking about this afternoon. In particular, the first step that my noble friend took was to set up the Water Conservation Sub-Committee of the Central Advisory Water Committee, which was of course the basis of the 1962 White Paper which was then the basis of the 1963 Act. It is to this that we owe the fact that we have on the 84 Statute Book to-day the Water Resources Act, and have the Water Resources Board and the river authorities with the necessary new powers of water conservation. Perhaps it is the moment to make the point that it will probably be another three, four or five years before we get any more water out of any of this, and therefore the time from the moment of vision by my noble friend to the moment when we get the extra water is some ten years. These things take an extremely long time to do, and it therefore behoves us all, including Her Majesty's Ministers opposite, to move with all speed, even now, to see that we get the extra water we need.
The river authorities are hard at work now—they have been in existence for only eighteen months—preparing to provide the extra water that is wanted. But the first thing they have to do is to survey their areas to find out what is the existing demand, who has a licence of right to take water, what water is available and therefore what extra water they have to spare for those who want it and then, on top of that, what schemes they have to provide to meet the growing demand of the future. All this is going up.
But there are two implications of great importance which have been touched on to-day one is amenity and the other is finance. I know that your Lordships have expressed great concern about the amenity aspects of water conservation, rivers, lakes and so on in this country, and in many cases amenity arouses strong feelings, particularly when reservoirs are proposed. I do not doubt that your Lordships will have noticed in The Times of Monday of this week a reference to the possibility of a new reservoir in the beautiful Yealm Valley outside Plymouth. The alternative to that is Dartmoor. Both have a strong case for not having the reservoir in their locality. This is one of those cases where everybody is in favour of having more water, but "not here"—always somewhere else.
This brings me to the alternative method which has been much commended to-day, of getting the extra water we want conserved by the use of underground aquifers. The underground aquifer scheme which has been referred to to-day by my noble friend Lord Hawke and by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and 85 which the Thames Conservancy is developing, is an interesting one and is, I suppose, in the nature of a pioneering scheme for this country. I am most hopeful that we shall succeed with it. As the noble Lord opposite told your Lordships, the Thames Conservancy has now officially submitted its application for the first part of it, the pilot scheme, which would sink nine boreholes in the Lambourn Valley area and pump them over the next three years.
This is a pilot scheme in preparation for developing the scheme as a whole over the Western part of the Thames catchment area. If this scheme succeeds it will, we believe, produce some 270 million gallons per day extra, which would be put into the Thames during the dry summer period, into tributaries, and it would be available for all the riparian authorities, including those for London, to meet the greater demands. Naturally, these schemes are most attractive, because they avoid flooding any land, they avoid taking any land, and the cost is low. We think the cost will be no more than one-fifth to one-tenth of that for a conventional reservoir. But I should like to make the point, which may be of interest to your Lordships, that these schemes are most difficult. Inevitably, whenever water has to be taken from underground there are existing wells, there are existing user interests, there are the interests of the riparian owners of the tributaries and the rivers who are concerned about what will happen to their river when water is pumped out from underground. All these interests have to be reconciled and satisfied before a scheme like this can go forward.
I would say that the administrative problems involved in putting forward a scheme of this sort are quite as much pioneering and quite as difficult as the engineering problems that are involved in the first place. Nevertheless, we are proceeding in the Thames Conservancy with this scheme, and I am hopeful that it will succeed both for itself and as an example which the Great Ouse river authority will shortly be following. If it does, it is going far to meet the needs of the Thames catchment area and of London. It is also going far to meet the needs of South Essex over the next twenty years. South Essex is one of the 86 driest areas in the country, and one of the most densely populated.
At the same time, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that even then some small reservoirs will be wanted, at any rate in this area; but it is significant that in this Report of the Water Resources Board on the southeast the alternative put forward to the ground water scheme of the River Thames Conservancy would be at least three, if not four, large over ground reservoirs, varying between five and ten square miles each, in the Thames catchment area. I am sure that the volume of objection which there would be to those would reach even the august ears of your Lordships in this House. I am sure such an alternative would be massively objectionable. This is one of the reasons why the Thames Conservancy have over the last ten years been studying this ground water idea, knowing how objectionable it would be to flood large areas of the Thames Valley in order to conserve the water which would be wanted. It is against that background that the scheme is going forward, and we hope it will be successful.
Finally, let me say a word about finance. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, made a point about finance. I think his words were that the Government will provide loan sanctions for the finance necessary for the development of these schemes. I should like to make this point to him: that the river authorities had a rather discouraging experience last year with their hydrometric schemes, where a sum of only £220,000 was provided for them. They need some £5 million altogether for these hydrometric schemes, and this should be provided immediately. They are the guiding schemes which provide those concerned with the basic information. I hope, therefore, that there will be a little loosening of the purse strings if river authorities are to get on with the job, which they must do if we are to get the extra water. We need not only loan sanctions in the south-east and throughout the country for the development of water conservation schemes, but real priority, so that river authorities get the money when they need it in order to develop the conservation schemes.
May I conclude with two major points I which I put to the noble Lord, Lord 87 Kennet, in the hope that he will say a word about them in reply? We have in this Report, to which my noble friend has called attention, a blue print which will supply us with the extra water we need for the South-East, we hope over the remainder of this century. We have the river authorities in existence ready to do the work. We have the Water Resources Board ready to do, and in fact doing, admirable co-ordinating work. All we need now is the Government intention to provide the extra money needed for these schemes on the one hand, and for the important and extended sewerage works on the other. I hope the noble Lord will be able to reassure us on these two points.
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, this discussion recalls to my mind a remark by Mr. George Brown. Unfortunately I cannot recall when he made it, where he made it or in what connection he made it; but I know that he did make it, and in such a way as to suggest that he was speaking as a responsible member of his Party. He quoted water as amongthe services in this country which were ripe and ready for nationalisation. He quoted it in the same sentence as he mentioned steel. It seems to me that something of this same idea was embodied in a speech which some noble Lords here may have heard, the last speech which the late Lord Birkett made in this House when he opposed the Manchester Corporation Bill which aimed at piping water from Lake Ullswater in order to meet the needs of Manchester in 1970. He concluded his speech with these words. He said that the defeat of the Billwill urge upon the Government the immediate necessity of producing that national scheme which…will give natural justice to every interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 237, col. 237; 8/2/62.]He used the words "national scheme", not "national consideration".
Partly no doubt as a result of that speech, and much else, we had in the subsequent year the Water Resources Act 1963. That has been referred to by three noble Lords in some detail, and its powers have been described. It has given us the Water Resources Board as a co-ordinating authority with very considerable powers, which has produced 88 this Report for the South-East of England to which reference has been made to-day and which I hold in my hand, with some difficulty owing to its enormous size and great weight. It refers—and it was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, as referring—to the danger of localised thought. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, has called our attention to the concern of particular interests. When one realises that the relatively restricted area covered by this Report embraces 131 statutory water undertakings as well as the eight river authorities which have been referred to, it is not difficult to see that the reconciliation of those localised industries must have been very difficult indeed. For instance, the Report says in paragraph 30:We accept that the proper interests of the existing water undertakings in the area must be safeguarded; it will be our concern to secure this. At the same time, however, we cannot accept that because an undertaking's area embraces undeveloped sources of supply that undertaking should always have exclusive claim to those sources even to the extent of inhibiting their wider and more productive use.But, in spite of the passage of the Water Resources Act and of the work of the Water Resources Board, we do not really seem to have got where I think Lord Birkett wanted us to get and meant us to get.
Mention has already been made of the fact that shortly in this House history will be repeated when the Tees Valley water scheme, which aim sat producing sufficient water supply for I.C.I. during the next ten years, is debated. Well, I hope history will repeat itself—certainly I think the discussion will repeat itself. The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, referred to what is now going on in the South-West in the area which lies just outside that dealt with by the Water Resources Board Report in connection with the Plymouth Corporation Water Bill, which has provoked a sort of internecine strife between those who favour ancient monuments and those who favour National Parks—those who wish to preserve Sir Walter Raleigh's ancient manor and those who wish to preserve the open freedom of Dartmoor. That, it seems to me, is a matter which should not be decided on a local or even a regional basis; it is a question of national policy. I understand also that Manchester is 89 again "on the war-path", so we may soon have that matter to consider.
There is another element in this lack of a co-ordinated national scheme which has been referred to at some length by the three noble Lords who haw spoken, and it is of course referred to over and over again in this Report. I refer to the question of sewage disposal and the reclamation of fresh water from effluent. I hope we may have an opportunity of discussing the question of sewage disposal at a later stage in connection with the problem of coastal pollution, but it crops up on this Report and has been referred to this afternoon. There is no sewage resources Act; there is no sewage resources board. Our sewage disposal is administered by a chaos of local authorities, some of them very small and financially weak local authorities, some large and efficient joint boards which are able to command scientific advice and to carry out large schemes—but it is a chaos of local authorities. The importance of the scientific treatment of such effluent is stressed time and again in this Report. I have marked the passages in which it has been stressed, but as it has been referred to by earlier speakers it will not be necessary for me to refer to them now.
If the case for a nationalised water scheme is urgent, surely the case for a national sewage disposal scheme is even more urgent. Really, one has only to read this Report to realise that the two aspects are in fact not two problems but one problem, arid should be treated as one problem. Therefore, when I dream of the future, of a golden age in England, I see in my dream one Ministry of fresh water dealing with both water resources and sewage disposal as one problem, which indeed it is.
I have used the word "nationalization", though I was once called to order by a Third Programme producer for using the word "nationalization" in connection with the administration of sewage, because he said that it was a word which was political dynamite and would immediately raise hostile emotional reactions in many breasts. But as it is used in this context I do not think it need raise any hostile emotional reactions in the breasts of noble Lords opposite, because it does not really interfere on a large scale with any private interest. In the case of water I think the private 90 interests concerned are negligible; in the case of sewage disposal they are nonexistent. Indeed, I think the only people who need fear this form of nationalisation are the noble Lords who sit on this side of the House because the nationalisation of water resources would, and should, challenge the sovereignty of certain very large, powerful Labour-controlled municipal corporations in the North and Midlands, whose motto in respect of water supplies appears to be, I'm all right, Jack!"
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, because I want to draw special attention to the importance of preserving amenities at the same time as we are taking steps to increase the water supplies of the country. I am an active member of several amenity societies, and in particular I am Chairman of the Standing Committee of the C.P.R.E. on the National Parks. I was very glad that the noble Baroness referred to the defeat by this House of the first water proposals that were put forward by Manchester in 1962, proposals that undoubtedly would have been most damaging to the amenities of the Lake District. Your Lordships very wisely refused even to allow it to go to a Committee but threw it out on Second Reading.
Just lately, further proposals have been made by Manchester. These are far more modest, with far greater consideration of amenities, but even so the amenity societies with which I am concerned have found it necessary to oppose the Order at a public inquiry. I think I may say that. as a result of our opposition, and that of local residents in the Lake District—and it cost us some £12,000 to oppose this scheme—ithas been very substantially amended by the Minister, but even now we do not regard it as entirely satisfactory. I think my noble friend Lord Inglewood will be raising the matter further when the Order comes before this House.
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, was indeed right when he said that when water matters in the North-West arise they may again prove, as they have in the past, to be somewhat controversial. But it must also be realised that we do not confine our interest in any way to the Lake District. We are much concerned about 91 the proposals that are being made for new reservoirs near Plymouth and on Dartmoor. What is so profoundly unsatisfactory about these proposals is that it is not claimed for them that they are going to be anything in the nature of a permanent solution of the water problem. I quite realise that, as my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford has said, it will take a long time after the conception and passing of the Act before the full benefits of it come into operation in providing long-term policy. But it is, I think, important to realise that we are likely in the near future to be confronted with further problems of this kind.
I have been studying the last Annual Report of the Water Resources Board. Whatever may be the long-term proposals, I am a little concerned to read that they say in paragraph 45:Provision of new supplies during the next ten years is likely to be along lines already familiar. In many areas new storage reservoirs above ground will undoubtedly be required.Even for the later period between 1975 and 2000 they say in paragraph 51:…it is probable that most of the country's requirements over and above those met by ground-water developments will be met by the further development of upland storage sites in the north and west.…I am glad to see that they have recognised their responsibilities under the Act to take amenity considerations into account. In paragraph 96 they say:In view of the purposes for which the National Parks were designated, there must be a strong initial presumption against any development which might damage their appearance or interfere with public access. We fully accept this. Indeed there may well be certain areas which should be held against any development. On the other hand, the total area of the Parks covers too much of the country—some 10 per cent.—to be regarded as sacrosanct from any change.I think it is a little sinister that, despite what the Board have said, they should hedge it around with such reservations, because the Lake District and other places of outstanding natural beauty are particularly easy areas in which to locate reservoirs.
I am surprised and sorry that in the Second Annual Report of the Board no reference whatsoever is made to the need for water economy. On the Second Reading of the Water Resources Bill I moved 92 an Amendment with regard to economy, and I withdrew it on the undertaking that the Government would introduce a new Amendment on Report stage. That was duly done, and my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, in moving the Amendment which now finds its place as Section 12(3)(a) of the Act, said:I trust that this Amendment, which makes it clear that it will be the duty of the Board to consider measures leading to economy of the use of water, meets their point".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 246, col. 907; 12/2/63.]That was the point raised by myself and my noble friends on the Committee stage. I think that it is desirable not only to ensure an adequate supply of water, but also to make sure, with the great increase in the supplies of water and the vast expenditure which in any case is going to be involved in providing it, that the water is not wasted.
I have been in touch with the Institution of Water Engineers with regard to the kind of economies which they regard as most important. Of the first and greatest importance is, of course, what has been referred to by several speakers to-day, and notably by my noble friend Lord Nugent of Guildford; that is, the repeated use of water taken from the rivers. The Board refer to that in the Special Survey relating to the South-East. But I can find no reference to it in the Annual Report of the Board which deals with the whole of the country. The long and important rivers of the North, with many industrial towns upon them, have special opportunities and a special need to use the same water time and again.
I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, referred to the great importance of improvement in the treating of sewage, because obviously the worse the sewage which is put into the river the less possibility there is of re-using the water. But in the Annual Report of the Board there is no specific reference to this matter in other areas than the South-East.
The second most important economy in the use of water is the re-use of the water by industrial undertakings. As 60 per cent. of the total consumption of water in this country is for industrial purposes, this is a matter of importance. I mentioned before, when the Act was under discussion in this House, that a 93 food-packing firm came to my constituency many years ago and wanted to establish a factory in Glossop. The amount of water which they asked should be supplied by the town was greatly in excess of what could be provided. The municipal water engineer therefore suggested to them that they should install a purifying plant and constantly re-use the same water. That has been entirely satisfactory and, in fact, is more economical from the point of view of the firm itself. There is, I am sure, immense scope for further development in this way, but it is not referred to in the Report.
There is also the matter of the scientific detection of underground leaks in mains. Great progress has been made by scientists in devising instruments by which these leaks can be detected, but nothing is said in the Report about the extent to which this work has been put into operation. I do know, however, that the standard of care in this matter varies very much from one undertaking to another.
Finally, there is the matter of water consumption in private homes and institutions. Cisterns in W.C.s are frequently twice the size really required, and spray taps instead of normal taps have been found to be an important form of economy. I should have supposed and wished that the Government would ensure that economies of this kind were applied all through their large building programmes in the way of schools, universities and hospitals.
My Lords, I join with all those who have spoken to-day in welcoming, as I do in general, the Annual Report of the Water Resources Board and their more detailed and careful study of the problem in the South-East. I am glad they draw attention to the need to preserve the amenities in those areas of sparse population and plentiful rainful which are among the most beautiful and attractive in the country; but I also hope that, at the same time as they are considering an increase in the supply of water, they will ensure that reasonable economy is practised in its consumption.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, like other noble Lords I welcome this 94 discussion on the nation's water resources, and commend the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, very much indeed on the wording of his Motion, which, in addition to allowing the noble Lord to pinpoint the particular difficulties of the South-East, allows for a much wider discussion than that. The problem that he has pinpointed so far as the South-East is concerned is a perennial problem, not confined merely to the South-East but affecting, nearly all the country. Even in those areas in which we have reservoirs and very good rainfall, and apparently an abundance of water, on many occasions we find the water authorities making an appeal for economies in the use of water because they visualise a shortage taking place.
That is so, even though we have very short summers and the very heavy rainfall to which the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, referred—something like 36 inches. I am told that if we interpret that in terms of gallonage it comes to something in the region of 12million million gallons of water by way of rainfall in this country. This is a very large amount, and, bearing in mind the short droughts that we have in summer, surely a weakness in our structure is indicated if we cannot at all times provide a supply of water which is adequate for everyone. I am told that out of this tremendous rainfall something like fifteen times more water is not used than runs through our water mains. Even if we allow for the evaporation that take place, these shortages indicate that there is a tremendous wastage somewhere.
The nation has demanded, and continues to demand—and very rightly so—better housing standards, better health standards, better standards of hygiene and many other improvements. As has been pointed out on more than one occasion, to meet all these additional requirements, more and more water is going to be required. Therefore, to the nation, this is a very exacting demand indeed. It is a challenge of considerable magnitude. There is no shortage in the total quantity of water available. Detailed surveys of water supplies have taken place and are continually taking place; advisory committees have been set up; we have the very good Water Resources Act of 1963; and we have the establishment of the Water Resources Board. All this 95 is to give consideration to these problems, and indicates that Parliament, in addition to the nation, has woken up to the fact that this water is available and that somehow in the nation's interest it has to be used in a much better way than previously.
The chairmen of various water authorities continue to draw attention to the urgent need for increased water storage capacity, for increased conservation or for something of that description, because of the needs that arise all over the country. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred in his speech to what happens when a particular area desires to increase its water reserves. It meets with all kinds of difficulties—very rightly so in many instances—from the National Parks and from various organisations that desire to retain the beauty of the open countryside. We see these difficulties manifested each time a major project is visualised. It was deplorable to experience the difficulty there was when Liverpool wanted its supply from the Welsh mountains; and we even saw an attempt to blow up the dam created for that purpose. We saw the war that developed when Manchester wanted to take more water from Ullswater in addition to its Thirlmere supply; we know of the battle that has taken place with regard to the new water development that is proposed for Teesdale; and, as Parliamentarians, we have all seen the large amount of Parliamentary time that is taken up by Private Bills which have to be presented and have to go through the respective Houses.
This, in addition to all the public inquiries that take place, indicates a tremendous waste of money, energy and effort; but it is not surprising that it does take place. I am told there are nearly 800 local authorities', over 40 Joint Boardsand 173 (or some figure in this region) private companies exercising statutory powers with regard to water supplies. In addition, a large number of other companies and private proprietors operate water supplies under no special Acts. Many of these are small, and are not necessarily most efficient in their distribution.
In recent years, many amalgamations of water authorities have taken place—and we all know the difficulty that 96 develops once one tries to secure the amalgamation of water authorities. All the local interests immediately become paramount—and the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, referred to what happens in the case of many local authorities in this particular direction. However, this indicates that all these local authorities are faced with a common problem, and that is to increase their catchment area or storage capacity in some way or another because of the growing demands. The existing procedure might have been all right in the early part of the century.
My Lords, may I strike a personal note? I feel very strongly about the purity of water supplies, for unfortunately my father died in 1910 because of an outbreak of typhoid fever due to consuming impure water coming from a river not adequately treated. Naturally, this brings home very clearly indeed that in the re-use of water—and I think we have got to re-use water a lot more in the future than we are at the moment—we must ensure even higher standards of purity. When we hear of such instances as those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, we may wonder about the position of Oxford so far as its future is concerned. It is equally essential that these administrative areas should be subjected to still further drastic review. Let us face it: the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, was right.
The speeches so far have indicated that there is great need for the Water Resources Board not only to prepare a national plan but to ensure a national plan that in effect would entail something like a grid system that would be able to supply areas of water shortage on tap. We may call it "nationalization". Do not let us be afraid of the word. If we may use this as a comparison, we have nationalised electricity; we have provided a grid supply for electricity. We had a countryside devoid of electricity until we established a grid system under nationalisation. We now have the Gas Boards instead of the various smaller gas suppliers with local autonomy. The Gas Boards, too, are thinking of grid supplies. The North Sea gas will be afurther factor to consider. We ought to be following the same principle so far as water is concerned. There should be a link-up, and where shortages develop the grid could be turned on.
97 I think the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, made a good point when he said that we cannot visualise flooding vast areas of the Thames Valley. There are certain parts of the country where water is in abundant supply; it should be taken and dealt with as a national service. Naturally, cost comes into this. We realise the Government's difficulty here, but it is a question of establishing priorities. This is not something which can be done overnight. It must be carefully planned. The Water Resources Board must have a look at water resources on a national basis. We must preserve what we have, and we must ensure that if we are taking some beautiful land and utilising it for water storage we must put in its place a recreation area and use the stored water for boating and swimming. We could plant trees in the area and thus preserve the beauty and amenities. I think this is possible. There is the question of cost, but I urge the Government to think seriously about this.
I would add a few words in connection with the problem of sewage. Coming from the North, I have referred on more than one occasion to the open sewers of the Tyne. Hundreds of sewers run into the river entirely untreated. I welcome the steps forward that are taking place as part of the £x-million scheme of the University of Newcastle in conjunction with all the local authorities on Tyneside. I trust that ultimately the day will come when we shall see the salmon going up the river Tyne in the way they used to many years ago. To come back to Yorkshire, I think of the River Aire and the foul sewer it has become. I think of all the effluent and trade waste coming down from the mill country into what in its unspoiled reaches is a beautiful river. Now, in parts, it is one of the most vile and stinking rivers it is possible to come across.
Therefore, when we are dealing with this question, we must insist that industry be compelled to deal with its own effluent more adequately than by turning it out untreated into the rivers. We know towns where there are tidal rivers where it is thought right to allow open sewers to go into the tidal waters. From this practice results the fouling of many beautiful beaches. Only the other week when I was on holiday at Bridlington I saw an example of this. Of course, it is a question 98 of priority; but I think that this debate will have been extremely useful if it indicates to the Government the feeling in the House in this connection. I trust they will take note of it in framing any future legislation on this subject.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, speaking for industry, I hope I shall be echoing the thoughts of many of your Lordships who have not yet taken part in this debate. I welcome the Water Resources Board Report on South-East England, a Report which was produced with considerable speed when one considers that the Board had been in existence for approximately only two years. In its chapter on industry, the Report illustrates the real demand and interest by industry for water in this area during the period under review, that is, until the end of the century. It is equally certain that this increased demand exists elsewhere in the country, as is mentioned in the Report. An accurate forecast is indeed difficult, but I understand that industry has recently been working on the general proposition that the increase in demand would be of the order of 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. per annum. For example, the Draft Manchester Water Order is of great importance to industry's requirements in the North-West.
I hope I am interpreting the thoughts of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, rightly, when I say that I am glad to think that we have his limited support with regard to this Order now. The Tees Valley and Cleveland Water Bill is designed to meet the industrial requirements in the North-East. In this case I am sorry to say that one cannot count on the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks. I think one should never forget that water is a vital requirement for industry for many different purposes: that is, for cooling, processing, and incorporating in their products. Therefore, I hope very much that the various plans to get more water over the years, which are enumerated in the Water Resources Board Report will command universal support. In his opening remarks the noble Lord, Lord Champion, appeared to support strongly the proposals contained in the Water Resources Board Report. One can only hope, as he did, that planning permission in the various areas will not he difficult to obtain, so that the schemes may go ahead satisfactorily.
99 In the short term—I stress that it is in the short term—I think it right to say that industry agrees with the view of the experts that neither desalination nor barrage schemes will produce an answer to the present problem. I understand that it would probably be ten to fifteen years before either method would produce any water in great volume. Therefore, industry is in complete agreement with the Water Resources Board in its proposed types of storage—the more conventional types to which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, referred—that is, regulating reservoirs and impounding works. Industry feels that it it is absolutely right that in the coming years a close look should be taken at the possible advantages of the other two methods, a barrage scheme or a desalination process, but that we should not count too much on these, so far, unproved and, at the moment, uneconomic methods. Whether it be at Government or at local level, I think that the Water Resources Board deserves every support in the implementation of its present and future projects. Anyway, it would seem that the Board has the full support of the Government, which is most encouraging.
My Lords, during the Third Reading of the Water Resources Bill on March 7, 1963, I said that industry was in a weaker position than agriculture or the statutory water undertakers in not having a parent Minister. It was felt at that time that the President of the Board of Trade would be a most appropriate parent Minister. I think that to some extent industry is still at a disadvantage in not having a parent Minister, but I am pleased to be able to say that industry has benefited from the deliberations of a most useful and valuable Joint Standing Committee. I understand that this Committee has met about six times and its work has proved extremely useful to industry from the point of view of general discussion and information.
In spite of views which were expressed at the end of 1962 and early in 1963, industry has enjoyed full consultation with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in the implementation of the 1963 Act. At that time, too, certain noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Lindgren, expressed the fear that industry might not be economical in its use of water. I said at the time that 100 industry was very conscious of the need for economy, and mentioned as an example that with regard to certain applications water was re-used or re-circulated approximately forty times. That is why I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, quoted the particular example of one firm which re-used water. However, as there are some persons in the country (I hope there are none in your Lordships' House) who feel that this process of re-use or re-circulation of water by industry is not as extensive as it could be, I would stress that there are still many technical difficulties which prevent greater extension. Again in respect of economy in the use of water there is a second relevant factor: that is, the imposition of the licensing system which carries a liability to pay charges, though that will not be effective until 1969 for licences of right. I think the licensing system ensures that industrialists take a serious interest in the economic use and conservation of water.
My Lords, I hope that, without going into detail, I have shown there is close co-operation between industry in general and the Water Resources Board, and that there exists in industry a great interest in the supply of water in the South-East and in other parts of the country.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ LORD MAELOR
My Lords, before I entered the Chamber I had not the slightest intention of taking part in this debate. But having listened to my noble friend, Lord Champion, I feel prompted to say a word or two, because I am sure that my noble friend has given your Lordships' House, or is likely to give, a wrong impression concerning the reaction of the people of Wales if ever again a drop of water is taken from Wales to serve the purposes of England. I am not anti-English, but I am pro-Welsh. We in Wales have had a bitter experience during recent years.
The people of Wales have been very generous in the matter of water supplies to the people of England, because the English local authorities own twice the water surface of reservoirs compared with that owned by the people in the Principality. Only a few years ago the Liverpool Corporation decided to construct a reservoir, and in order to do so it was necessary to submerge a village, including its church. It was a Methodist 101 church. Had it been a church of the Church of Wales I doubt whether the reservoir would have been constructed. But the Methodist church, the post office and the school were all submerged in order to construct this reservoir in Merionethshire.
When I opposed this scheme in another place I found, to my dismay, that the Liverpool representatives were very much assisted by representatives from Manchester and other cities. It was then that I learned that the water which was supposed to be to help Liverpool was to be re-sold to these other cities: they were to receive the surplus of the water extracted from our land. As I have said, we in Wales are not anti-English. We have lived together now for centuries, but the present Prime Minister—and he is the first ever to do so—has recognised the nationhood of Wales; with the result that your Lordships would be under a very wrong impression, in spite of what my noble friend has said (and I am sure that he would not intentionally wish to give your Lordships a wrong impression), if it were thought that water would ever again be extracted from Wales to help any local authority in England without its first of all being decided by the Welsh Office, which was established by the present Prime Minister.
I have before me the Report on the Water Resources of Wales, which has been published by the Government, and I am hoping that one day we shall discuss that Report here, and discuss the water resources of Wales exclusively, not taking into account water resources in any other part of the Kingdom. I have been thinking that I ought to warn your Lordships now, if what my noble friend said appears in the Press tomorrow, of the feeling, which the noble Lord on the other side of the House will remember, created when the last reservoir was made in Tryweryn Valley, in Merionethshire. Up to now people have been coming over and looking at our valleys, deciding that reservoirs should be constructed here and there, like those which supply Liverpool with water. That sort of thing must cease from now on. The water in Wales must not be for the use of people other than the people of Wales. If we have a surplus, then we shall sell it to the people of England. I am sorry that my maiden 102 speech in your Lordships' House should be of this nature, but I felt that I must utter a word of warning.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, it falls to me, rather unexpectedly, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Maelor, on his maiden speech. The sentiments he has expressed I hear much of, living as I do in South Wales. I would not say that they were not controversial, but I have very much sympathy with the views he has expressed. I hope that the noble Lord will often address the House again.
This is not a subject I know a lot about; indeed, our water resources, the amount we use and the ever-increasing amount we are going to use, if we are not careful, are matters about which not enough information is yet available. I think that we ought to be worried about the situation we are floating into, and the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, is to be greatly congratulated on this Motion. In the days before piped mains water, when water was carried from a well and the supply eked out with what could be caught off the roof, every drop was precious and cared for accordingly. Now we have gone to the opposite extreme, and water is not thought of as precious enough. A big reason for this, I would say, is the water rate. The water rate, at a flat rate, is an encouragement to waste, because it gives too many people the idea, not only that it does not matter how much they use but also that they ought to use as much as they can to get as much value as they can from their rate. I know of no other commodity which is regularly supplied on the same basis—pay a small flat rate and take away as much as you like. How nice it would be if the Electricity Board, or the coal merchant, or the garage man, operated in the same way !
But I believe that it is a fundamental law of economics—because it is in the nature of most humans—that people waste what is cheap or what is, or seems to be, abundant. And water is cheap, very cheap, and seems to be abundant. The only difficulty at the moment is in storing it. But surely the attitude of so many water boards is thriftless and shortsighted: "Gosh!, we are sorry that there wasn't enough for you to leave your tap on all night, but don't worry; 103 we have a valley in Buckinghamshire, a valley in Hertfordshire, a valley or two on Dartmoor, a valley in Upper Teesdale and 20 or 30 valleys in Wales, which will see us right for the foreseeable future." It may be that more reservoirs are urgently needed, but one must wonder whether the forecasts are anywhere near right, or whether the rate of consumption is necessary or whether damming up valley after valley is the right way to go about the matter, and where it will all end.
I know that the Conservative Party are, officially, against more nationalisation, but I know many good Conservatives—and I mean good Conservatives—who say privately that our water supply industry ought to be nationalised, and I myself see that as the only way in which a national resource, which is increasingly difficult to obtain, can be properly cared for. In order to reduce waste, I think that every user should he metered, so that the more people use, the more they pay. This has been done in a number of areas, with very good effect.
If the first so many gallons per household per day—enough to provide for the absolute necessities of life—were charged quite cheaply, and all extra used was charged rather dearly, there could soon be enough accumulating in a national kitty to pay for schemes like the Morecambe Bay Barrage, the Wash Barrage and other similar national schemes, which it would be so useful, perhaps essential, to have and which, in their making, would not so negligently drown our valuable lowland areas. And perhaps a National Water Board would finance the river authorities, which could then direct more money to purifying the Thames and other polluted rivers, and finance the sewage disposal of which the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, spoke.
The South-East, I recognise, poses a special difficulty, because it is farthest away from the areas which have a big surplus. I hope that the plans for underground storage will be helped on by the Government and soon by a National Water Board. It certainly seems a pity to resort to desalination when at the moment there is so much water running away to waste in the North and West. But people in valley areas will not take kindly, and rightly so, to having their 104 land—and the nation's land—swamped, more especially if they think that the water is being piped off merely to run to waste somewhere else.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, unlike my noble friend to whose eloquence we have just listened, I do not have the advantage of living in Wales. I live within 35 miles of your Lordships' House, and until about two years ago, on the rare occasions when no rain fell for about two weeks, I found myself in the position that the piped water supply to my house failed so badly that I was unable to take a bath before attending your Lordships' House. And during the whole of the eleven years I have lived within 35 miles of your Lordships' House I have never been allowed to use a hose on the garden. I find this very odd in an age in which it is contemplated that men will land on the moon.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, once again the House has spent an afternoon in a way which is so good. in aerating a topic, rather in the way described by the noble Lord. Lord Nugent of Guildford, of the aeration of the Thames as it pours over the weirs. I think that we have justified the flow of water. At least the sediment has settled and some useful bubbles have come to the top. I should like to take up some of the points which noble Lords have raised at various points in the debate. I hope and believe that my noble friend Lord Champion sufficiently answered the detailed points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, in his important opening speech, and I would add my thanks to those of my noble friend to the noble Lord for raising this topic.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, asked in effect whether the Government would keep up pressure on the local authorities about the purity of the effluent they are permitted to discharge into our rivers. The Government are well aware of this problem and we are trying, in the highest hopes, to keep this question under observation. The approach which has been adopted in the recent circular and memorandum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, referred, 105 is that we have to insist on higher standards with local authorities where they can be demonstrated to be necessary by the conditions in the river and the uses likely to be made of the water subsequently. In other words, one should not lay down the same standards; it depends so much on who will discharge effluent into the river lower down and what has happened to the effluent already there.
The noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, also said something about the scheme for putting water into the chalk in summer. With regard to the two schemes coming up in the Lambourn Valley and the Great Ouse Valley—and when I say "coming up" I mean the two schemes under consideration—the Government are well aware of the anxiety of the relevant authorities to get them into operation and are equally well aware, as the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, said, that there are many stages of consultation and "permission-getting" to be gone through before they can come to fruition.
My Lords, did the noble Lord, by a slip of the tongue, say "putting water into the chalk"?
§ LORD KENNET
I am sorry; I did. I mean, of course, taking water out of the chalk and putting it into the rivers. The confusion was with reverse schemes elsewhere. I know the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, will do what he can through the Conservancy to take account of the probable worries of those who live around the places where the holes are proposed to be bored, especially with regard to the type of machinery that has to be put on top of the holes in order to get the water up.
Lastly, the noble Lord permitted himself a gentle complaint, I think, about the cut in capital expenditure of hydrometric schemes. It is the general fate when the economic weather is bad that almost every one has to put up his umbrella, and I think that, by and large, the capital investment in water resources has come off pretty well and has not had to put up its umbrella too much during the present bad weather which the nation is undergoing. I think I am right in saying that the level of capital expenditure on these schemes is likely to rise, not to the £5 million, as he said, but to £500,000. Therefore, the situation is not as grave as might appear.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, the £5 million is the estimated total cost of these schemes by river authorities throughout the country. I should think that they will wish to spend that sum within the next five years.
§ LORD KENNET
That is estimated total cost. The figure of £500,000 is the estimated annual cost in the immediate future.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, in an interesting speech, made the point that sewage disposal should be considered for nationalisation in the same way as water has been, and is, considered as a candidate for nationalisation. I noticed that she used the words "a sewage resources board". It is rather the other way round. I am not sure that your Lordships would feel that there ought to be a sewage resources board, in the sense that it would devote its energies to ensure that there would be enough sewage to go round.
My Lords, is the noble Lord suggesting that the Government will give priority to the nationalisation of sewage disposal over the nationalisation of steel?
§ LORD KENNET
Far from it. I was seeking to give reasons for putting sewage rather low down on the scale of national endeavours and enterprises to be considered for nationalisation. The point is that sewage is, and I think must remain, essentially a local business. There is no need for considering it on a nation-wide basis. There are no local shortages of sewage, as there are shortages of water, that have to be overcome by a great national scheme.
§ LORD KENNET
I turn now to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, whose burden really was economy. I think the view of the Government is that re-use is the best economy. The more that one can get industry re-using its water, the bigger the saving of water there will be. As to the number of leak detection systems, I am informed that many water undertakers have rather good leak detection units, particularly the larger ones. As in so many fields of local government and cognate fields, we find that they are the ones who are the most modern and efficient in regard to such 107 schemes. I was interested to hear the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, speaking from an industrial point of view, and particularly to hear the good impression that he had of the work of the Standing Joint Committee on industrial re-use—that is, as between the Water Resources Board and the Confederation of British Industry.
I took the greatest pleasure in the excellent maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Maelor, and quailed when I heard him say that if ever again a drop of water is taken from Wales to serve the purposes of England he knew not what would happen; and I continued quailing for several rotund periods until he came back to the point and said that not a drop of water should be taken from Wales to serve the purposes of England without that course being approved by the Welsh Office which has been set up by this Government. My heart beat a little slower at that point, and I felt that peace might, after all, be preserved.
The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, about making people pay, or pay more, for water, is an interesting one which we will keep in mind and certainly will consider. I would only remind the noble Lord that industry does pay by consumption. It is metered. And industry takes a pretty good portion of the water that is available.
§ LORD KENNET
Perhaps they should. I think it is clear that everybody will have to pay more. But this is looking far ahead.
My Lords, if the noble Lord has finished dealing with the points raised in the debate, could I ask him whether he has anything to say about the question of the experimental distillation plant attached to an atomic power station? I think a lot of people are interested in this. Could he also say whether a fact that was told to me is true—namely, that the distilled water rots iron pipes very quickly and so produces distribution problems?
§ LORD KENNET
I thank the noble Lord for bringing that up, and I will answer him straight away. To take the second point first, I understand it is a 108 fact that, distilled water being very pure, it shakes loose all the coating which has been left in the pipes by the less pure water used previously, and therefore it is necessary when you are putting unsalted water, desalinated water, into a public supply system to repollute it with the right salts in solution in order to prevent the coating from coming off the pipes. I am informed that the process is not difficult; it is not excessively expensive, and not a major bar to desalination. I will deal with the overall question of desalination in a moment.
We are operating within the framework of the all too well-known fact that the demand for water has risen, is rising, and will continue to rise. As the Second Annual Report of the Water Resources Board estimates, the total amount of exploitable water in England and Wales is equivalent to an average flow of about 16,000 million gallons a day, and the total demand in the year 2000 is likely to be about 10,000 million gallons a day. So one can see that the situation is not hopeless. It is not a question of necessarily inventing entirely new techniques out of the blue. We can cope if we do things in the right order, and do them wisely. There is enough water to meet the demand.
In this context I would emphasise that the South-East Report mentions a good many schemes. They will not all be necessary. I think so much is clear from the Report. The decisions will have to be taken, and taken in an orderly manner, over the next few years about what combination of schemes will, with the least disruption to everything else, provide the right amount of water at the right places and at the right time.
I should like only to echo what my noble friend Lord Champion said: that we are fortunate now in having the Water Resources Board. We have the machinery and the framework for gathering the facts, for drawing conclusions from them and making suggestions and recommendations to the Government and to other authorities about what ought to be done. The first fruits of this new system are the Water Resources Board's South-East Report which we have largely been discussing to-day. The North of England as a whole is likely to form another large region for which co-ordinated planning for the whole area, on the analogy of 109 the South-East Report, is being undertaken.
At this stage I would convey an invitation to noble Lords. I am told that if any of them would like to visit the Water Resources Board in its office at Reading they would be more than welcome. Perhaps they would get into touch, either direct with me or with the Chairman of the Board, about such a visit, because it is always more convenient to go in small parties rather than singly. I myself had the good fortune to visit the Board a week or two ago, and I should like to tell the House about one thing as an example of the work they are doing.
I saw a delightful example of a little analogue machine (it was not big enough to be called a computer) which had been set up to simulate the layer of chalk under London. The Water Resources Board already know that the water level has fallen in that layer by several hundred feet since 1800, and they know where it has fallen and to what extent in different places. They are just about to be able to ask this analogue machine what has happened under London since 1800. They already know the answer, and if the machine gets it right they will then be in a position to ask it what is likely to happen in the future if they take water out from one place and put water into another place. Such machines are now able to do in microseconds what has previously taken twenty clerks years to do. That is one reason why one is glad that this Board have been set up.
A further solution to a large part of our water supply problems over the next decade or so will be in what are known as conventional projects, otherwise reservoirs. Every time a reservoir is built there is conflict with other interests. Sometimes the most convenient place, from the point of view of water, is most inconvenient from the point of view of amenity; maybe it is in a National Park or is on some of the best agricultural land. Sometimes the best place for avoiding amenity damage is the worst place for water, but there are two points that I would stress. The first is that what we are doing at the moment is not as awful as it is sometimes made out. The total average of land over England and Wales going out of agricultural use every 110 year is about 50,000 acres. The average amount of that land which is going out of agricultural use because it is being flooded by reservoirs is 1,000 acres, so it should be seen that, of all the land we are using and taking from agriculture, for one purpose or another, reservoirs are taking only 2 per cent.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether, when he refers to that percentage of agricultural land, he is including the reservoirs in places like Exmore and Dartmoor, which are places of great beauty but are not to any great extent of agricultural value?
§ LORD KENNET
The figure is for land going out of agricultural use. I assume the figure required by the noble Lord would not appear in that percentage, but I can send the noble Lord the precise percentage for the other land as well.
The second point which it is important to make is that the age of the reservoir is not going to be extended indefinitely into the future. Everybody knows, I think, that at a certain point we shall be using unsalted seawater. I think it is clear that in 100 years' time we shall be using it and that in five years' time we shall not be using it. The only question is, when does it break even economically? The background to this problem is that at the moment we have no plants which have been specifically designed from the bottom up to produce both electricity and unsalted water at the cheapest joint price for both commodities.
The difficulty in the way of making calculations is that electricity generating authorities, not only in this country but all over the world (there was an international conference about it in Vienna a week or two ago)—all industrial generating concerns—are used to calculating the price of electricity as low as they can get it, and they are inclined to say, "If anybody wants any steam left over from our plant they must pay the economic price". Conversely, those charged with providing water at the cheapest available rate are inclined to say, if anybody wants to get any electricity out of the desalination process before the steam is cool enough for them, whatever happens they will not increase the price of water for it. This is an historical factor, but we are now coming into an age where it is beginning to be possible 111 for the first time for calculations to be made which ignore these factors. Several figures have been published, but I think the figure mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, of 0.4d. per unit of electricity, as against 4s. 6d. per 1,000 gallons a day water, is about the best figure available at the moment.
One wishes one could say that we shall not need any more reservoirs after such-and-such a date because desalination will be economically possible. We cannot say that. One wishes one could say that on such-and-such a date in three or four years' time we shall be able to make that statement. Unfortunately, even this is not yet a technical possibility. But I can assure the House that as soon as it is possible to give the first date, from which it will be possible to calculate the next date, this will be done. In the meantime, our research programme in this country continues, and I can supply background information by correspondence to any noble Lords who are interested.
I said a moment ago that a reservoir was bound to clash with other interests, but it is possible to do a great deal more, and we are doing a great deal more now than we used to do, to see that it clashes as little as possible with other interests and that it brings new, positive interests. I refer to positive landscaping, minimum interference with the existing landscape and, possibly, its use for sailing, boating, bird watching, walking around, picnicking, enjoying oneself in general and even, in some cases, swimming.
The House will be aware that the amount of use that can be permitted on a reservoir is dependent upon the amount of purification plant provided. If there is maximum purification of the water going out of the reservoir, then maximum use for recreation can be permitted. If you have half-purification you can permit half-use. If you have minimum purification you can permit very little use, or none at all. I think we all know that the days when a reservoir meant something like Thirlmere, with barbed wire all round and you could not go within a hundred yards, are numbered; and the influence of our Ministry is being brought to bear to the maximum possible extent in ensuring that 112 all the new reservoir proposals throughout the country first provide for the amount of purification which will permit use for recreation and secondly will have an amount of use which is compatible with the amount of purification which is undertaken.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question before he leaves that subject? So much for the good intentions of the future. What about the past? Why should Manchester be able to segregate Thirlmere, when I understand it is merely a question of having suitable treatment works and spending the money thereon in order to be able to allow the public access there? Why cannot Her Majesty's Government put pressure on Manchester?
§ LORD KENNET
I am informed that the Manchester Corporation are looking at what can be done to liberate Thirlmere and the Government are at the moment awaiting proposals from them. One is tempted always to think that the Government should put pressure to bear on this or that authority, but the Government are not responsible for providing actual water at all; this is the responsibility of the water authority, and it is easy to be tempted to go too far in putting pressure on such authorities.
We have the machinery to plan over the wider area, and we are using it. We have the machinery to plan our resources comprehensively in the interests of all water users, whether those who are taking water out of rivers or those who require it to be left in the river for use lower down, or those who do not want to take water out at all—those interested in fisheries, navigation, land drainage, amenities, sailing and swimming. We have the machinery to provide the data on which we can build our future plans and we are beginning to use that data for our future plans. Previously this field was dominated by narrow assessments of each separate water undertaking, which was quite simply how to get drinkable water at the lowest possible cost. The field now is subject to the wider considerations I have been mentioning.
It is the duty of the Water Resources Board and the Government, as advised 113 by that Board, to weigh up how best in the future to use all these natural resources—land, rivers, lakes and underground storage—and desalination and barrages, for the benefit of all. This includes giving full weight to all interests, not only water consumers but also farmers, those who enjoy the water, the National Park authorities, and the authorities for the development of new towns and the expansion of existing ones, and for the creation of new lakes and reservoirs with a strong eye on their recreational possibilities.
My Lords, I think we have had a very interesting debate on a topic which has not been debated in your Lordships' House for some time. I will not attempt to answer any points that have been made, because the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has devoted considerable time to learning up this subject and has answered very adequately. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at fourteen minutes past five o'clock.