Byline: SION BARRY Business Editor
FIRST Minister Rhodri Morgan is being urged to ensure Wales doesn't fall behind the rest of the UK in utilising its canal infrastructure to transport water supplies.
The Independent Wales Party has written to Mr Morgan saying that Wales risks losing the opportunity to exploit its valuable water resources because it will not be linked to a new water grid to supply the driest parts of Britain.
A pounds 200m contract to create the water grid using the canal network, instead of pipelines to move water around the UK, will be awarded this month by the British Waterways Board from a shortlist of three, United Utilities, Amex, and Ondeo.
United Utilities presently has the contract to deliver water services provided by Welsh Water, while Ondeo is the water distribution and treatment subsidiary of the global conglomerate the Suez Company.
Chief executive of the IWP John Humphries said, "The water grid could revolutionise the distribution of water but at present there are no plans to connect Wales because the waterways board says it is uneconomical.
"It is also conscious water is a sensitive issue in Wales - but Wales has no objection to selling its water: it just wants a fair price."
The IWP is urging the Assembly to provide financial backing for a pounds 50m scheme to restore the Montgomeryshire Canal link to England as part of the infrastructure needed to fit Wales into the planned water grid.
"Wales is a major source of water for England but needs this new infrastructure investment if it is to capitalise on the effects of global warming, " said Mr Humphries.
"The Llangollen Canal is already used to supply water to North West Water."
The IWP is also pressing the National Assembly to support Waterways Board plans to restore the Swansea-Neath-Tennant Canal system and the Monmouthshire-Brecon Canal. …