Monday, 12 March 2012


Cofiwch Dryweryn
Water is going to be a valuable resource for the people of Wales in future years, and who controls it, I suspect one of the key issues. The issue of water understandably raises strong emotions and stirs long memories here in Wales, especially when the likes of Boris Johnson starts chattering on about a network of canals being needed to carry water from the wet North to the dry South (for the ‘wet North’ read ‘Wales).

Now Boris's brainwave, is not a new idea, back in 1973, the Water Resources Board, the government agency (now defunct) published a major report that advocated building a whole raft of infrastructure to aid the movement of water, not to mention constructing freshwater storage barrages in the Ouse, Wash and Morecambe Bay, using a network of canals to move water from north to south, extending reservoirs and building new aqueducts, not to mention constructing a series of tunnels to link up river basins to aid the movement of water.

The plan for water in 1973
Despite the demise of the Water Resources Board in 1974 (two years before the 1976 drought) and its replacement by regional water management bodies, which were privatised in the 1980’s the issue has never really gone away. The Environment Agency produced a report entitled "Do we need large-scale water transfers for south-east England?" (in 2006), in answer to its own question at the time it said no.

Yet faced with a prolonged period of drought in the South East of England, DEFRA itself held a drought summit on the 20th of February this year. The Con Dem Government continues to doggedly pursing its Water for Life agenda, as part of which the Water Industry (Financial Assistance) Bill to be met. The Government has stated that it remains committed to the remaining legislative measures set out in Water for Life and fully intends to publish a draft Water Bill in the coming months.

Whatever Westminster decides to do, we (in Wales) need to have democratically control of our own resources, we could start with repatriating control of the crown estates transferring control of lands in (and off) to the Welsh Government in Cardiff. For the life of me I can see no realistic reason why this feudal anachronism cannot be consigned to the dustbin of history.

This should be followed up by taking a long hard look at our water resources and what we get for them and how we can develop them. I see absolutely no reason why the Welsh people cannot fully benefit from any future exploitation of Welsh resources, including our water. We need a whole Wales strategy to develop and to conserve our water supplies and our planning regulations will need to be tweaked or rewritten accordingly.

Most people will not be particularly shocked to discover that coincidentally that the Government of Wales Act specifically excludes the Assembly from making any laws relating to water supply – hmm – odd that isn't it? The bottom line is that our water resources should belong to the Welsh people, not to Private corporations or to the UK Government.

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