Shoring up our water supplies

Published: 30 Nov 2018

By: NIC

Tagged:

This week we marked 10 years since the Climate Change Act. Since the passing of this key piece of legislation, we as a country have become international leaders in this field – yet there is clearly much more to do.

As well as reducing carbon emissions we also need to prepare for the effects climate change could bring, including extremes of weather such as droughts. That’s why I was pleased to see that the plans announced by Michael Gove to make our water resources more resilient matched some of our own recommendations.

Earlier this year we published our report, Preparing for a Drier Future. Based on robust analysis and research, as well as in-depth discussions with experts across the water industry and environmental science, it offered a stark warning about the state of supplies in this country.

Our work showed that we are losing as much as three billion litres of water every day to leakages; that UK households consume far more water than our European neighbours, and that we have a lack of new supply infrastructure. These all make the network far less resilient than it should be to future shocks.

These factors are particularly concerning in the context of climate change, as we estimate an additional three billion litres of water is needed every day just to maintain the current level of resilience.  Without action now, measures such as hosepipe bans, or even the use of standpipes and water rationing, could become more frequent for households and business.  Through the National Policy Statement the Government has also set a clear aim that companies’ plans will deliver resilience to severe droughts.  This means reducing the chance of severe restrictions by 2050 from around one-in-four to one-in-seven.

It is therefore greatly encouraging that the Government is acting on our recommendations to make our water supplies far more resilient to these weather extremes. The draft National Policy Statement states a clear need for new water resources infrastructure, making use of the evidence that we have provided. It noted that the capacity from new infrastructure proposed in companies’ plans is roughly in line with the recommendations of the Commission. The Policy Statement also acknowledges the importance of making use of the whole set of infrastructure options, and in particular the need for a better-connected network of transfers so water can be moved from areas in surplus to those in need. 

Through the National Policy Statement, the Government has also set a clear aim that companies’ plans will deliver resilience to severe droughts.  The statement also says that Ministers will consider our proposed higher level of resilience to extreme drought for future water resource planning rounds. 

I was also pleased to hear the Environment Secretary announce his plan to set a target to halve water leakages by 2050 – something I know water companies are actively looking to adopt. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing else to do to reduce the amount of water we use: far from it. We have recommended that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs request all companies to consider systematic roll out of smart meters. This will help reduce household average daily consumption from 141 litres to nearer 118 litres. We look forward to the water conservation report that the Government has planned for the near future.

As recent stark warnings from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change have shown, there needs to be concerted effort now to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and help mitigate the worst effects that rising temperatures could bring.   We need to ensure that the country’s infrastructure is resilient to the changing climate that we could face in the future.  For the vital resource of water, this new National Policy Statement will support companies in taking the actions needed now to ensure our water supplies are resilient to the long-term threat posed by a changing climate and rising population. 

Share this article

<

Recent Articles

Bridget Rosewell speech to Westminster Social Policy Forum: Next steps for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc
Cambridge – Milton Keynes – Oxford Growth Arc
Portrait of Bridget Rosewell

Bridget Rosewell speech to Westminster Social Policy Forum: Next steps for the Oxford-Cambridge Arc

The following is an edited transcript of remarks given by Bridget Rosewell, National Infrastructure Commissioner, at a virtual conference held on 26 March 2021 to discuss progress on the Oxford-Cambridge Growth Arc. “As we gather again to discuss progress on the Oxford-Cambridge arc, it is perhaps helpful to remember the exam question the Commission was...

29 Mar 2021 By
How infrastructure can help counter infection
People traveling by airplane during COVID 19 wearing N95 face masks, waiting in line at airport terminal. Close up of woman disinfecting hands.

How infrastructure can help counter infection

An opinion piece by Monica Laucas, drawing on conversation with Chelsea Stefanska, Global Health Security Specialist at Mott MacDonald I recently discussed with Chelsea Stefanska, a Global Health Security Specialist at Mott MacDonald, how epidemiology can influence infrastructure design and how infrastructure can be retrofitted to be pandemic resilient. “As an infectious disease epidemiologist, it...

22 Mar 2021 By
Young infrastructure professionals test top ten proposals for driving change
Annual Monitoring Report 2021

Young infrastructure professionals test top ten proposals for driving change

Our Young Professionals Panel considers the government’s National Infrastructure Strategy and Budget and puts forward its top ten recommendations in response to the Strategy and the Commission’s recent Annual Monitoring Report.

15 Mar 2021 By

Evidence_Icon_Turquoise Created with Sketch.

Explore data used in the Commission's research, and gain insights from across UK infrastructure

Join our team of professionals supporting the Commission to provide evidence based and forward thinking advice on infrastructure strategy.