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Climate Change to Leave Parts of UK Without Water

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Ben Dolbear on the shocking revelation by a parliamentary committee that could have implications on our water consumption in the near future.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao

The chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne MP, has written an urgent letter to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) requesting information on the government's plans to manage water consumption in the UK, after the Committee on Climate Change released shocking forecasts that showed that national water supply will drop by 7% by 2045 due to climate change, leaving parts of the country without a reliable inflow.

In his letter to Parliamentary Under-Secretary Rebecca Pow MP, Mr Dunne highlights the stark warnings by the Committee on Climate Change, noting that water supply was identified as one of the six priority risk areas by the Committee's 2017 Risk Assessment, a document that the UK government is mandated by law to publish every five years under the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Listed alongside 'Flooding and coastal change risks to communities, businesses and infrastructure', lack of action on which led to Prime Minister Boris Johnson being accused of 'hiding' from affected areas, 'Risk of shortages in the public water supply, and for agriculture, energy generation and industry' is described as having a medium-to-high risk magnitude, meaning that more action is needed to prevent significant supply issues.

Due to the increasing effects on human-induced climate change, the Chairman stresses, England alone will require an additional three billion litres of water a day by 2050 to maintain current levels of resilience against drought. This figure was given by the National Infrastructure Commission in an April 2018 report entitled, 'Preparing for a drier future: England’s water infrastructure needs'. This amounts to an increase in supply of over a quarter, which Mr Dunne argues should be enacted in tandem with 'tackling leakage and reducing water consumption', progress on which has 'stalled' since the election of David Cameron's Conservative majority government in 2015.

Heeding Warnings from the Future

The Chairman also cites a National Audit Office (NAO) report commissioned by DEFRA in March this year, entitled, 'Water supply and demand management', which sets out how parts of the south and south-east of England will run dry in the next two decades without immediate action. Expanding on his warning, Mr Dunne argues:

'We cannot ignore the stark warnings outlined within the NAO’s report, which should act as a wake-up call that more must be done to prevent the country running out of water. Despite such a wet twelve months culminating in this February’s floods, this month looks set to be the most dry April on record in the UK, with forecasters predicting 2020 to be the warmest year since records began.'

While Mr Dunne's Committee welcomes a £469 million investment to support water companies in transferring supplies across regions to increase resilience and reliability, the Chairman exposes what he implies is government inaction on reducing water supply, saying that promotion of such action has been left to the water companies.

Mr Dunne has requested that DEFRA respond to his letter by 22nd May.


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