The water industry has a number of long and short term challenges, and companies are working towards finding and implementing solutions.
Two of the long term drivers are climate change and population growth. Government predictions suggest that the growth in population could also be in areas which may face a drier future as a result of climate change.
Sustainable, resilient water resources for the UK depend on not only managing demand, but developing new resources where they are needed. Rainfall patterns may change, and companies will have to plan to catch the rain when they can. Mechanisms exist within the water industry price review process which allow companies, regulators and all those with an interest to explore fully the reasons for, and merits of, any proposal to increase capacity. When companies do plan either to build new reservoirs or extend existing ones, they are very aware of the complex social, environmental and infrastructure issues involved.
All water companies have a duty to provide 25 year Water Resource Management Plans, and drought plans, both of which mean companies are aware of, and preparing for, long and short term challenges. Managing demand is key to ensuring water resources remain sustainable. But, as we have already mentioned, in some parts of the country this could also mean the need to develop both new water resources and ways of removing and treating wastewater. So itís not just about new reservoirs, although they may be necessary. It could also be about restoring or creating wetlands to act as natural reservoirs, or doing the same with reed beds to act as natural used water filters. It could be desalination, although that comes at a carbon cost. It could be creating more flexibility between water supply zones.
We are ready for the challenge. Water resource, and used water, issues need not hold up economic growth, as long as development and water resource plans are made side by side. By assessing costs and benefits and working within environmental limits it will be possible to provide sustainable solutions.