Water Industry News

800m Litre Water Shortage Per Day For The East Of England ‘By 2050’

Water stress and scarcity is one of the biggest climate change-related threats that the world faces and every corner of the globe is expected to be affected by the likes of drought and flooding at some point in the future, with many places already feeling the pinch in this regard.


Even the UK, with its famously damp climate, will face challenges where water is concerned – and it seems that the east of England in particular will be hit quite hard, with new analysis suggesting that the region faces projected shortages of 800 million litres of water per day by the year 2050.


Water Resources East (WRE) – set up by Anglian Water – equates this projection to one-third of the region’s water usage and consumption, calling for £15 billion to be invested before 2050 in order to tackle the issues head on and noting that food security will be put at risk if action isn’t taken soon, the BBC reports.


The organisation has put plans in place to help safeguard water resources for future generations, including focusing on water leak detection and repair, driving down water demand in residential properties and other buildings, and working to make new property developments as water efficient as possible in the lead-up to 2030.


It also wants to see less water abstracted from rivers and underground aquifers, while two new reservoirs are now in the potential pipeline near Chatteris in the Cambridgeshire Fens and just outside Sleaford in Lincolnshire. Together, these two sites could hold 100 billion litres of water.


WRE said: “Action is needed now, otherwise increasing water scarcity will constrain agricultural production and curtail economic and housing development, as is already the case in parts of Cambridgeshire.”


Pressure cooker


Resources in the Anglian Water catchment area are facing significant risks because of the combined pressures of low rainfall, increasing temperatures in line with climate change and global warming, and a growing population.


A recent report from the water supplier observed that the challenges now facing the east are some of the most severe in the entire country, “second only to London”.


The region is home to approximately nine million people and this is expected to climb by around 700,000 over the next 20 years, with Peterborough, Cambridge, Northampton and Milton Keynes the four fastest-growing cities and towns in the UK.


The report also noted that temperatures in the east are expected to climb by more than the national average come 2043, while rainfall will hit record lows, all of which will put increasing amounts of pressure on regional water supplies.


Action time

Work does appear to be underway, however, with Anglian Water outlining investment plans to help drive improvements in every county in the east. According to the BBC, for example, £93 million will be spent in Essex to improve bathing water quality through the reduction of storm overflow spills.


And in Cambridgeshire, £10.1 million will be spent at the Grafham Water treatment works to remove forever chemicals and improve drinking water quality, while £8 million will be spent in Peterborough to increase drainage capacity as a response to population growth, with new drainage systems and sewers constructed.


Peter Simpson, Anglian Water chief executive, said of the plan: “To achieve this, it will require close collaboration with local authorities, businesses, community groups and regulators to unlock opportunities for generations to come.

“We hope that this acts as a rallying cry to help bring together everyone who shares our ambition to capitalise on the many opportunities and in delivering a prosperous, thriving future for the region.”


Agricultural concerns


The breadbasket of England (as the east is known, because 75 per cent of its land is used for agriculture), is home to some of the most productive farms and food businesses in the country… but the region is also the driest in the whole of the UK, making it more vulnerable to water stress and scarcity, with food security in jeopardy as a result.


It’s likely that the agricultural sector will see more and more restrictions being placed on water usage as drought, climate change and population growth all increase as time goes on.


A wide range of irrigated and rain-fed crops are grown in the east and without sufficient water resources available, it would mean that the region would be less resilient to weather shocks and hikes in food demand.


The WRE has suggested that some farm businesses in the east may have to put plans in place to reduce their water abstraction from current sources by over 60 per cent to help ease pressure on supplies.


However, Monica Bijok Hone of Cambridge-based campaigning group Friends of the Cam said the plan was too late, adding that water companies around the UK have consistently failed to put measures in place for the future.


She was quoted by the BBC as saying: “Now they argue farmers cut back their abstraction, threatening our food security, while they fail to tackle their own over-abstraction and support further growth.”


Water abstraction naturally has wide-ranging impacts on the environment and nature conservation sites, as well as leisure pursuits and public access to rivers, for example. And it certainly seems as though over-abstraction is an issue, with research suggesting that one in five surface waters suffer in this regard.


As such, a long-term solution to water management must be found so as to develop a system that is able to remain resilient in the face of climate change and population growth, one that ensures water is used optimally across the board.