The Environment Agency has announced it is taking a “Wales first” stance in response to appeals to ease the drought in South East England.
There have been recent calls from individuals and companies for Welsh water agencies to pump water into drought-affected areas in England.
Areas covered by Thames Water, Anglian Water and Southern Water have been hit by a serious drought following below average levels or rainfall over the past two winters.
With Welsh reservoirs at a maximum, many individuals, including Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, have called for water companies in Scotland and Wales to pump relief water into the worst affected places.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency for Wales (EAW) has hit back at these requests. He said: “Despite what people think, we don’t have a surplus supply of water. For the last two years we’ve been close to drought conditions and we’ve only had half our expected rainfall.”
He argued the Environment Agency for Wales needed to put a “Wales first” angle on their policies. He said: “We need to make sure that there is enough water for the people of Wales, for their businesses and their companies.”
This reflects the statement made by Plaid Cymru when they called for the devolution of power over Welsh water. Ieuan Wyn Jones, Plaid Cymru leader said: “It is a matter of principle that the people of Wales should benefit from the assets we have as a nation. Bringing Wales’s natural resources under Welsh control would allow it to benefit from the water and wind that it has in abundance, as other nations are able to benefit from their resources.”
Although there have been calls for the Welsh to aid in England’s plight, there has been no official request from Westminster to the Senedd.
The origins of this debate stretch back to 2006 when a report was compiled investigating the pumping of water between countries. The results proved that it was possible, but not practical.
A spokesman for the EAW said: “In terms of large scale transfer it is not economical or environmentally sensible.
“There is also the factor that our geography and landscape is so different to England’s, our river levels respond so much more rapidly and if we have a dry spring and a dry summer then we could face serious problems of our own.”
There are some who point at the Tryweryn dam whose construction in the 1960s caused the relocation of an entire Welsh community in order to provide Liverpool with more water.
The Agency refused to be drawn on this highly sensitive topic and simply stressed the need to look to the future rather than the past.
Chris Mills, Director of Environment Agency Wales said: “In the future, with the likely impact of climate change, an already stretched resource will become under increasing pressure. We are working with water companies and the Welsh Government to plan for this eventuality to make sure we have enough water for us all.”
A spokesman for EAW added: “ The first thing we have to change is how we view water and how we use it. We need to protect our resources and make sure we do not waste any more.”