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A £250m desalination plant launched 12 years ago to increase water supplies during dry spells has been put on hold, despite the UK’s recent heatwave.
But the Daily Telegraph reports that the plant will not supply drinking water until next year at the earliest.
The expected supply from the plant, according to Thames Water, has been reduced by a third.
A spokesperson told the paper: “This adjustment was made on the basis of experience and to avoid creating unrealistic expectations about the output that could be achieved over a sustained period.”
Water companies are facing rising political pressure as hosepipe bans come into force.
Tory leadership contender Rishi Sunak wants to look at introducing compensation if a hosepipe ban is a direct consequence of water companies’ failures.
The former chancellor told The Daily Telegraph he would consider introducing the measure after Southern Water and South East Water implemented hosepipe bans in some areas of England as months of dry conditions push the country towards drought.
“It is unacceptable for water companies to impose restrictions on their customers when they fail to stem leaks,” he said.
“We need tougher financial penalties on the companies that are not investing enough to stop water being wasted.”
A spokesman for Mr Sunak’s rival Liz Truss, meanwhile, added: “We shouldn’t be in a position where hosepipe bans have to happen.
“More needs to be done to make sure water companies fix leaks and waste across their networks.”
The moves to curb water use come after England has seen the driest eight-month period from November 2021 to July since 1976, when much of the country struggled in extreme drought.
Last month saw a record-breaking heatwave and the driest July in records dating back to 1836 for south east and central southern England.
For England as a whole, last month was the driest since 1935, Met Office figures show.
The country could be in drought this month if the dry conditions continue, the Environment Agency has warned.