Consultation seeks to determine areas of water stress in England


The Environment Agency has launched a four-week consultation to determine areas of water stress in England, and how best to protect the environment and safeguard supplies.

Climate change, population growth and the need to improve resilience to droughts are all putting pressure on water supplies in areas of England.

This consultation will provide up-to-date evidence on water resources so that water companies experiencing the most severe pressures adopt the highest level of water-saving measures, helping to manage supplies in the future and ensure rivers, lakes and streams are protected.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow commented: “Water is a precious natural resource that we must all value as our supplies come under increasing pressure.

“As a government we are proposing a legal target on water demand in our forthcoming Environment Bill and working with water companies to reduce leakage, tackle unsustainable abstraction and pollution, and improve their planning for the future.

“I urge anyone with an interest to take part in this consultation to help preserve supplies and improve our environment for future generations.”

The Environment Agency will use responses to this consultation as part of their decision-making for their revised approach before making their recommendation to the Secretary of State, who will go on to decide which areas should be determined as an area of serious water stress.

The Environment Agency will also use the determination to inform if water companies in areas of serious water stress can consider charging for water by metered volume for all customers, called compulsory metering.

The Environment Secretary will formally determine areas of water stress later this year.

Seven additional water company areas – Severn Trent Water, South Staffordshire Water, Wessex Water, Portsmouth Water, Cambridge Water, an area of South West Water, and the Isles of Scilly – have been provisionally identified as priority areas.

When an area is determined to be in serious water stress, the water company for that area must publish a water resources management plan (WRMP) that considers all options to manage demand more effectively – including metering and greater leakage reduction.

The Environment Agency’s new water stress maps will use data from water companies and the National Framework for Water Resources, and consider:

  • a long-term view of water availability to 2050
  • environmental needs, including chalk streams
  • impacts of climate change and population growth
  • the impact of a 1:500 level of resilience in water supplies
  • planned water efficiency and leakage improvements

The Environment Agency has encouraged greater collaboration between water companies to find innovative solutions to manage demand across the country, such as the sharing of resources through water transfers.

Each company’s WRMP will be subject to public consultation before the Environment Secretary decides whether a company should be allowed to publish and implement its final plan.

This consultation closes at

More information about this consultation and how to take part is available on the Environment Agency website.