Since 2010 there have been a number of piecemeal reforms and developments across the water sector. These have included: the periodic review of the water and sewerage companies; the provision of further financing for the Environment Agency to address flood defences over a slightly longer period; a deal with insurance companies on flood risk; steps towards retail competition in water; and changes to the form and scope of agricultural subsidies for environmental improvements.
It is widely acknowledged that these are only evolutionary steps in developing a more efficient and environmentally sustainable water sector. Issues which remain outstanding include: abstraction management and upstream competition; a long-term solution for flood defences; and a better integration of agricultural practice with water quality and the ecology of rivers. Put simply, the natural capital embedded in catchments is as yet neither managed on a cost effective basis nor a sustainable one . The current state of affairs therefore does not meet the objective of the 2011 White Paper: The Natural Choice – to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state.