Government is more trusted than water companies when it comes to asking consumers to pay more to tackle over-abstraction. That was the conclusion of research commissioned by WWF from left-wing think-tank the Fabian Society.

The research by YouGov showed 58 per cent of people were willing to pay more to protect rivers if government was behind the measures. This fell to 47 per cent when water companies were also mentioned.

Natan Doron, senior researcher for the Fabian Society, called on government to launch a public information campaign on the dangers of abstraction from catchments at high risk of environmental damage.

“Government and the private sector need to work together to protect our rivers,” he said. “The challenge we face is enormous and we need everyone to step up to meet it.”

“Willingness to pay” data forms a key plank of Ofwat’s proposals to disincentivise unsustainable abstraction in the next price ­control.

This article first appeared in Utility Week’s print edition of 7th September 2012.

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