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Ambitious, collaborative agenda needed to deliver for customers and the environment by 2050

  • White Paper from industry body Water UK sets out the sector’s vision for an improved water system in England by 2050
  • Without urgent action future generations will face significant challenges to maintain water supplies and tackle pressures on water quality and habitats
  • The sector is calling for better systems and collaboration with Government to accelerate improvements while protecting household bills

The water sector in England has today set out a series of proposed, ambitious regulatory reforms as part of its Water 2050 White Paper.

With water companies facing unprecedented challenges over the next three decades, the sector is calling for urgent action to avoid future generations facing severe water scarcity, higher bills and environmental targets being missed.

In addition to delivering the current ambitious environment programme, the Water 2050 White Paper proposes a series of positive changes to current regulation to accelerate change and ensure investment achieve maximum impact, including:

  • Long-term environmental targets for England including the reduction of carbon emissions and improving all aspects of water quality, ideally underpinned by protection in law such as a new, single “Rivers Act”.
  • Ensuring the sector has the world-class green skills to identify, develop and implement innovative solutions.
  • Focusing planning decisions on a stronger understanding of ‘best value’ enabling the most beneficial improvements for society to be taken forward.
  • Agreeing investment decisions based on a forward-looking approach to assessing costs, impact and risk rather than focusing on historical data.

Christine McGourty, Chief Executive of Water UK, said:

“There can be no doubting the profound, existential challenges facing the water sector over the coming decades. Without urgent action there is a risk future generations will simply not have enough of this precious resource to go around.

“We know water companies have a significant role to play in tackling these challenges, and this White Paper sets out the positive, ambitious ways in which we can meet them head-on.

“But we can’t do this alone and we need others to join us on this journey so we can ensure that our children are able to enjoy the same on demand water supply we take for granted today.”

Along with the ‘21st Century Rivers’ plan, published last year, the Water 2050 White Paper details the changes required to protect our rivers and coasts. Without these reforms it will be increasingly difficult for water companies to meet the targets set out in the Government’s 25-year Environment and Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction plans.

By 2050 a combination of climate emergency, population growth and ageing infrastructure will mean more than 4,000 additional mega litres of water (the equivalent of 1,600 Olympic Swimming pools) will be needed every day to meet demand while rising temperatures will mean a fivefold increase in the risk of drought.

The UK population is also forecasted to rise to 75 million in 2050, creating another threat to our natural assets by increasing pressure on the supply and demand balance, and an aging infrastructure much of which was built in the 19th century.

The need for greater investment in this infrastructure is laid bare by the White Paper with 350,000 km of water mains and 625,000 km of sewers in the UK predicted to fail more often and a 25% increase in supply interruption unless asset replacement works are increased.

The full report can be found here.