Water resources planning
Water companies are working to protect against growing drought risk.
Water UK worked with companies, regulators, academics and NGOs to create the Long Term Water Resources Planning Framework - a report that breaks new ground by deploying new modelling techniques and by looking 50 years ahead across the whole of England and Wales.
The results suggest that, in some scenarios, we are facing longer, more frequent and more acute droughts than previously thought. Drier areas of the country (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.
The modelling shows that extensive measures to manage demand and enhance supplies of water are needed to contain the risk of drought, for example, by:
- promoting more efficient water use in homes and businesses, through improved building standards and widespread use of smart metering, as well as more ambitious reduction in leakage from water mains;
- moving more water from one region to another through existing waterways and new pipelines, building new reservoirs, treating more water for re-use and building desalination plants to make use of sea water.
The report's authors conclude that, by adopting a step-by-step approach, the additional cost of making the supply of water more resilient to severe droughts would be equivalent to about £4 per annum per household. By contrast, the impact on the economy of inaction could be very high, costing an estimated £1.3 billion per day during the most widespread situations of severe drought modelled in the report.
The report comes shortly after publication of the Government's National Floods Resilience Review, which acknowledged that at many times and in many places, water is in increasingly short supply. The Review said there are obvious benefits to managing water in a way that reduces both flood risk and water stress.
The research into drought risk was carried out by independent consultants and peer reviewed by leading experts in water resources, climate change and environmental management. It was commissioned by Water UK after the government asked water companies in 2015 to look at the long term resilience of water resources in England and Wales.