Extracting our water without remuneration is surely nothing short of exploitation

Llyn Efyrnwy in Powys. Picture by Sue Tupling (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Leanne Wood, Leader of Plaid Cymru 

Westminster’s extraction and exploitation of our natural resources is an emotive and historically significant issue. The physical scars still mark our national landscape and emotional ones our national psyche.

The last extractable resource of value to England, our water, is now the target.

I have written to the First Minister outlining the concerns of communities and farmers about the supply of Welsh water. First and foremost, I have again reiterated that Wales must take full legislative control of our natural resources.

In recent months we have seen calls from the trade union GMB to use Welsh water to supply London and, earlier this week, reports emerged that United Utilities has decided to move water from Wales to supply Greater Manchester, amid warnings of a potential hosepipe ban in the area.

Millions upon millions of litres of water are extracted from Wales and sent over the border daily. Our towns and farms, on the other hand, will face water shortages – some are already facing them.

Like coal in the 20th century, Wales will see no benefit from the extraction of our natural resources. When water is piped over the border, not a single penny will return in our direction – extraction without remuneration is surely nothing short of exploitation.

In fact, privatised English water companies will turn a profit from their extraction of our water. On a moral, practical and economic level this simply is not right.

Scarcity

One proposal which is increasingly attractive is the development of a cross-border water levy. England would pay for water both as reparations for what happened in the past and to ensure we receive our fair share for the water they extract.

The revenue generated would go some way to addressing the cruel irony that Welsh consumers pay more for their water, despite its abundance, than those over the border.

The current “Water Protocol”, which dictates the relationship between the Welsh and Westminster governments regarding water, ensures Westminster retains a veto over decisions relating to water in Wales.

A second Tryweryn may seem politically unfeasible, but it is not a legal impossibility. We can never and should never settle for the empty promises of Westminster – with fears of water scarcity growing, we must have a legal lock that a community can never be destroyed again for the water needs of another nation.

Of course, I do not want to see anyone, in any part of the UK, who needs water to be deprived of it. Fundamentally, however, decisions about Wales are best made in

Wales. Without full control over our natural resources decisions over Welsh water will always be under the influence of Westminster.

As the old aphorism goes, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Climate change is already having an effect on our weather and water supply. With governments globally failing to meet their environmental obligations, the question of who should control our water is going to become ever more prominent.

For a future where Wales is not once again squeezed to supply the world with its resources, whilst its people suffer, we must now guarantee that our nation, our people, have control over our greatest asset – our natural resources.


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