Protect Against Growing UK Drought Risk

Posted on by Sarah Mukherjee

Headshot of Sarah Mukherjee, Director of Environment for Water UK

Sarah Mukherjee, director of environment for Water UK, states that the country needs an effective response to combat a significant and growing risk of drought in England and Wales.

New research published by the water industry suggests that we could face longer, more frequent and more acute droughts than previously thought.

The research modelled the possible effects of climate change, population growth, environmental protection measures and trends in water use to produce a wide range of future scenarios.

In some of these scenarios, the south and east of England face a higher risk of more severe droughts than those experienced in the past, while English regions further to the north and west are also more exposed to the prospect of future water shortages.

It means that the UK will need extensive measures to manage demand and enhance supplies of water to contain the risk of drought.

These include managing water more efficiently in homes and businesses, through better building standards, smart metering and reducing leaks in water mains.

It may also become necessary to move water from one region to another through existing waterways and new pipelines, treating more water for reuse and building desalination plants to use seawater.

The resulting report from the research “Water resources long-term planning framework” suggests that the additional cost of making the water supply more resilient would be about £4 per year per household.

In contrast the cost of doing nothing could be very high, costing an estimated £1.3 billion per day during the most widespread and severe droughts that are modelled in the report.

There has been a lot of press recently about the government’s “National floods resilience review”, which stresses the benefits of managing water to reduce both flood risk and water stress. While acknowledging that water can be in increasingly short supply at many times and in many places, the emphasis has been on too much water rather than too little. It is time to tackle both.

Since privatisation, the industry has invested billions of pounds in securing the nation’s precious water resources, but we all need to do more in the face of current and future pressures on those resources.

The threat of drought is already with us – were it not for the unprecedented rainfall in the spring of 2012, we might have suffered significant problems with water supply that summer.

Forewarned should mean that we are forearmed. As the report argues it is time to plan not just for the short term, but also the longer-term needs of our country and its need for a reliable water supply.

For more info, you can download a copy of the report.

 

 

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