Environment Agency: UK could see water shortages by 2050

The UK’s Environment Agency has urged government to take action to increase the water supply and urged consumers to use less water in the face of shortages caused by climate change and demand from a growing population. If action is not taken to increase supply, reduce demand and cut wastage, the agency says that areas in England may suffer supply deficits by 2050.

A report released by the agency on 23 May says that levels of water abstraction (extracting water from a source and transferring it to a distribution network) at a quarter of groundwater bodies and one-fifth of surface water is unsustainable. It also found that three billion litres of water are lost daily due to leakage, equivalent to the amount of water used by over twenty million people.

The Environment Agency urged utilities to develop more ambitious water management plans to weather future stresses on supply, to develop new resources, support work towards environmental goals and integrate enhanced methods to manage and share resources. To further this, the agency said it would work with the private sector to develop a national policy statement for water, helping the development of ‘nationally significant’ infrastructure like reservoirs.

Future strategies for energy generation were also looked at. In scenarios where levels of renewable and nuclear generation was higher, water demand were reduced. Scenarios that involved the growth of carbon capture and storage (CSS) saw a stress in supply. Facilities using CSS require extra water for the CSS units and are less efficient overall, increasing the amount of water needed for coolant. Fracking was assessed to be ‘not likely to be a significant abstractor of water in England’, but could adversely affect local areas already suffering from shortages if the industry grows.

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