Parts of UK could run out of water, chairman warns

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OVER the last five years, efforts to manage water supply and demand effectively have stalled.

Within its recent report on Water Supply and Demand Management, the National Audit Office (NAO) warned that unless more concerted action is taken now, parts of the south of England could run out of water within the next 20 years.

The NAO identified a number of factors contributing to water supply shortages, including leakage and high levels of water consumption.

Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, Philip Dunne, has written to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) requesting an update on measures such as leakage targets and managing water consumption.

Mr Dunne commented on the announcement: “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.

“From monitoring progress by water companies in reducing leakage, to showing leadership in managing consumption amongst companies and consumers alike, there are a number of important steps the Government can be taking.

“My Committee will keep pressure on Government to ensure it is doing all it can to guarantee future water supply.”

The Committee on Climate Change has forecast that the UK’s total water supply will drop by 7% by 2045 due to climate change.

Reflecting on the findings, the EAC has put the following to the Government:

  • The NAO has warned targets to reduce leakage by 15% or more by 2025 may be unachievable for some water companies. How does the Government intend to monitor progress of water companies to ensure that leakage targets are met?
  • In 2018, DEFRA announced plans to establish a personal water consumption target for households but it is yet to be introduced. The Committee asks why has there been a delay, and when it is expected?
  • In leading a national approach, how DEFRA will provide stronger leadership to water companies, regulators and consumers to reduce the consumption of water?

Within the letter, the Committee welcomes a £469 million investment to support water companies to develop a strategic approach to transferring water between different water resource areas, which could be part of the measures needed to increase resilience of supply.

This will continue to be monitored by the Committee.