Many commentators have pointed out that, despite the rise of the Green Party as a force in national politics, the environment has not been a mainstream issue during this election campaign. At a time of austerity, it’s argued, voters see concern about environmental issues as a marginal issue, which pales into insignificance compared to worries about jobs, homes and health. And yet the predictions are more alarming than ever.
Climate change experts say that, with the amount of carbon continuing to enter the atmosphere, a global temperature rise of 4C is now more likely than 2C. This could lead to regular summer temperatures of 48/49C in the south and east of England by the end of the century.
Water companies are already aware of the challenges that climate change may bring, and plan meticulously for the future. In addition, the last Price Review was unique in its level of customer engagement. Customers have been very clear in telling companies what they do – and don’t – want for the next five years. And, whilst they are willing to pay for environmental improvements, on the whole the evidence suggests that they would be unwilling to pay for the sort of investment required to remove all risk – quite understandably, as the costs would be enormous.
If that is the case, and if climate change will make it more difficult to both predict and provide for the extremes of wet and dry, companies will have to be more than providers of services in future. They will have to work in partnership – with their customers, with government and with regulators – to ensure the UK is both making the very best use of available water when there is too little, and dealing with too much water as cost effectively as possible.