Plans to 'trade' water to dry areas

TapOfwat has announced plans to persuade utilities to transfer more water to dry regions as part of proposals that will change the way it regulates the sector.

Despite four of the top five wettest years occurring since 2000, many parts of England have just experienced the driest 18 months for more than 100 years.
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The regulator said it aims to introduce incentives to transfer water across company and regional boundaries from where it is plentiful, such as the north, to where it is more scarce. Currently only 4-5% of water in the UK is traded - a figure that has remained fairly static since the sector's privatisation in 1989.

Ofwat chief executive Regina Finn said the move is needed to address a growing population and increasingly volatile weather.

She said: "We are living in tough economic times, and household budgets are under increasing pressure. At the same time, it is getting ever harder to manage our precious water supplies as the population grows in areas where resources are already stretched, and our weather becomes more unpredictable.

"We cannot afford to stand still. We are changing our approach to help ensure we have modern, innovative, customer-focused sectors ready to meet 21st century challenges."

The move is part of a package of proposals that follow a two-year consultation with the sector, which will come into effect in 2015 alongside the latest price review for the industry. These proposals also include new penalties for companies that abstract water from environmentally sensitive sites. According to Ofwat, half of the UK's rivers are currently having unsustainable amounts of water taken from them.

Ms Finn continued: "We are acutely aware that households won't want to see any increase in bills that is not absolutely necessary. These changes will empower companies to rise to that challenge."

To support this goal Ofwat plans to change the way it sets price limits for the sector. In the past the regulator has set general price controls for each company over a five-year period.

From 2015 it plans to set separate price controls over the same period for businesses and household customers of retail water and sewerage services. Wholesale prices for water and sewerage services will also be subject to separate controls for the first time.

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Plans to 'trade' water to dry areas

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and browse the web while abroad can be extremely costly – especially if you are travelling outside the European Union (EU), where calls can cost up to 10 times as much as at home.

To avoid high charges, Carphone Warehouse suggests tourists ensure a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) is supposed to help people to continue meeting their loan, mortgage or credit card repayments if they fall ill or lose their jobs. However, policies are often over-priced, riddled with exclusions and sold to people who could not make a claim if they needed to.

At one point, sale of this cover - which was often included automatically in loan repayments - was estimated to boost the banks' profits by up to £5 billion a year.
Now, though, consumers who were mis-sold PPI can fight back by complaining to the bank or lender concerned and taking their case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (08000 234567) should the response prove unsatisfactory.

It could be you, but let's face it, it probably won't be. In fact, buying a ticket for the Lotto only gives you a 1 in 13.9 million chance of winning the jackpot.

With odds like that, you would almost certainly be better off hanging on to your cash and saving it in a high-interest account.

No-frills airlines such as EasyJet may promote rock-bottom prices on their websites. But the overall fare you pay can be surprisingly high once extras such as luggage and credit card payment fees have been added - a process known as drip pricing.

Taking one piece of hold baggage on a return EasyJet flight, for example, adds close to £20 to the cost of your flight, while paying by credit card increases the price by a further £10.
It may therefore be worth comparing the total cost with that of a flight with a standard airline such as British Airways.

Cash advances, which include cash withdrawals, are generally charged at a much higher rate of interest than standard purchases.

While the average credit card interest rate is around 17%, a typical cash withdrawal of £500, for example, is charged at more than 26%.
What's more, as the interest accrues from the date of the transaction, rather than the next payment date, costs will mount up even if you clear your balance in full with your next payment.

Supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda often run promotions under which you can, for example, get three products for the price of two.

However, it is only worth taking advantage of these deals if you will actually use the products. Otherwise, you are simply buying for the sake of it, which is a waste of your hard-earned cash.
To avoid paying over the odds, it is also worth checking the price per kilo to ensure that larger 'economy' packs really are cheaper than the smaller versions.

Buy a train ticket at the station on the day of travel and the price is likely to give you a shock - especially if you are travelling a long distance at a busy time of day.

However, you can cut the cost of train travel by 50% or more by going online and making the purchase beforehand - especially if you book 12 weeks in advance, which is when the cheapest tickets are on sale.
Other ways to reduce the price you pay include avoiding peak times and taking advantage of so-called carnet tickets, which allow you to buy, for example, 12 journeys for the price of 10.

Most High Street banks offer packaged accounts that come with monthly fees ranging from £6.50 up to as much as £40, with a typical account charging about £15 per month.

Various benefits, such as travel insurance and mobile phone insurance, are offered in return for this fee. But whether or not it is worth paying for them depends on your individual circumstances.
Before signing up, it is therefore essential to check that you will make use of enough of the benefits, and that you cannot get them for less elsewhere.

Overseas money transfers or travel money purchases attract the same high rate of interest as credit card cash withdrawals.

Worse still, most credit cards – and debit cards – also charge you a foreign loading fee if you use them to make purchases while abroad.
You can, however, avoid these charges by using a Saga Platinum or Nationwide Building Society credit card.

Numbers starting 0871 cost 10p or more from a landline, while those starting 09 can cost more than £1 a minute from a mobile phone.

And the operators of these high-cost phone lines, some of which are banks, often get a cut of the call charges.
Most 09 numbers are linked to scams and should therefore be avoided at all costs, while 0871 numbers can often be bypassed by searching for an alternative local rate numbers on the saynoto0870.com.
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