Plan unveiled amid warning many areas of England ‘face water shortages by 2050’
A long-term plan has been developed to prevent water shortages in England by 2050 through dramatically reducing demand and halving leakages.
Despite the relentless recent rainfall, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned there could be water shortages in England by mid-century unless there is a “step-change” in water usage and storage.
The agency’s National Framework for Water Resources aims to dramatically reduce usage through measures including reducing demand to an average of 110 litres per person a day, from the current 143 litres a day, and working with water companies to halve leakage rates by 2050.
The EA said the framework brings together industry, regulators and government to transform the way water supplies are used in the face of the challenges presented by climate change and population growth.
It said the latest predictions estimate that, if action is not taken, England will need more than 3.4 billion additional litres of water per day between 2025 and 2050.
The agency said 1.15 billion litres of this would be to “make water supplies more resilient to drought”; 1.04 billion litres would be to supply the growing population; and 720 million to replace current supplies which are not sustainable.
EA chairwoman Emma Howard Boyd said: “If we don’t take action, many areas of England will face water shortages by 2050.
“The National Framework for Water Resources is the step-change required to ensure the needs of all water users are brought together to better manage and share resources. Collaboration is key if we are going to deliver the resilience and environmental enhancement we need.”
As well as reducing demand and reducing leakage, the framework looks to develop new supplies such as reservoirs, water re-use schemes and desalination plants, and make it easier to move water to where it is needed through regional water transfers.
Five regional groups have been set up which will put together plans for specific areas, bringing together the 17 English water companies, industry regulators, government and other water users.
The framework makes it clear that 50% of the future increase in need is in the South East region.
It also sets out the challenges facing water-intensive industries such as agriculture and power generation with climate change.
The framework aims to deliver a national blueprint for future water resources planning from 2025 to 2050 and beyond.
Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: “I am pleased to see the Environment Agency challenging water companies to work more collaboratively to increase water efficiency.
“This framework is a significant step in the right direction, bringing together consumers, businesses and industry to reduce our water demand, and to put in place the infrastructure we need while preserving our water environment for decades to come.”
Dame Kate Barker, of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “We welcome this framework’s bold vision, in line with the conclusions in our National Infrastructure Assessment.
“It is clear about the need to protect our natural environment and promotes collaboration between water companies, regulators, government and major users to reduce demand, increase supply and better share scarce water resources.”