The Environment Agency (EA) has published a ‘National Framework for Water Resources’ which sets out how the government will address future water supply challenges in England as a result of climate change and population growth.
The framework brings together water companies, other industries such as agriculture, regulators and government with the intention of transforming the way we use and look after our water supplies.
The government wants to use the framework to drive forward reductions in water demand, halve leakage rates, develop new supplies, move water to where it’s needed and reduce the need for drought measures that can harm the environment.
The publication of this water planning framework is much anticipated and long overdue. Latest predictions suggest that if further action is not taken, between 2025 and 2050 we’ll need more than 3.4 billion additional litres of water per day to meet future demand for public water supply.
Responding to the publication, NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said:
“One of the UK’s biggest assets is our maritime climate which provides us with enough water to produce a healthy, enjoyable diet. But recently we have been seeing far too much water in some places and not enough in others, and sometimes both at the same time.
“With the country experiencing more frequent and extreme weather events due to climate change, it’s absolutely vital that we have a well thought through, practical and effective framework when it comes to managing this vital resource.
“For the past three years the NFU has been pushing hard for a strategy which will help farmers plan for challenging weather, provide protections for farmland against flooding and drought, and pay farmers to store water – something which I believe will become an increasingly important service for society.
“I’m glad that the Environment Agency has taken on many of our recommendations within its new water framework, including plans to make it easier to move water to different parts of the country.
“The publication of this framework is an important step and we now need to see the government working with farmers and growers to drive forward climate and water friendly food production.”
What's included in the framework?
The framework looks to ease the pressure on future water supplies by:
- Reducing demand to an average of 110 litres per person per day by 2050
- Improving water efficiency across all sectors
- Working with water companies to halve leakage rates by 2050
- Developing new supplies such as reservoirs, water re-use schemes and desalination plants
- Making it easier to move water to where it’s needed through regional water transfers
- Reducing the use of drought measures that can impact the environment
Meeting our future water needs: a national framework for water resources
What happens now?
Five regional water planning groups across the country will work up plans tailored to the specific needs of their individual area, bringing together the 17 English water companies, industry regulators, government and other water users. The framework will guide these groups and deliver a national blueprint for future water resources planning from 2025 to 2050 and beyond.
The framework is multi-sector in its ambition and lays the foundation to address the challenges of other water-dependent sectors like agriculture and power generation. It also sets a greater level of ambition for restoring, protecting and improving the environment that is the source of all our supplies.
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, 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.”
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