Future water needs – working with Water Resources regional groups

28 April 2023

Environment and climate
An image of a river running through green fields

The NFU is working with the five Water Resources regional groups to ensure the agricultural sector is considered when looking at future needs.

The challenge for agriculture to secure access to water is widespread. This table shows estimated water requirement by 2050: 

Region Total amount of water needed Sector usage
North 192 Ml/d 38% Power
33% Industry
West 283 Ml/d 59% Industry
27% Agriculture
East 444 Ml/d 64% Agriculture
17% Power
South East 175 Ml/d 32% Industry
30% Agriculture
West Country 193 Ml/d 63% Industry
23% Agriculture

For a visual representation of this table visit page 4 of: Meeting our Future Water Needs: a National Framework for Water Resources.

We're working with the five Water Resources regional groups to ensure the agricultural sector's requirements are taken into account as future needs are considered.

The process for creating a Water Resources Regional Plan crosses multiple sectors. Barriers that we've encountered so far include a lack of water resources planning at any level, as well as the lack of a central funding programme to support research and infrastructure for the agricultural sector.

As well as working with the five regional groups, we are working with the EA (Environment Agency) and Defra to understand the support required for the agricultural sector and to ensure the regional groups progress with regional plans.

Meeting our Future Water Needs

A National Framework for Water Resources – Meeting our Future Water Needs – was developed by the Environment Agency. Read the report at: Meeting our Future Water Needs: a National Framework for Water Resources.

The aim of the report is to provide the framework for the changes required in strategic and regional collaboration to ensure the needs of all water users are brought together to better manage and share resources.

The national framework provides a strategic direction to England’s long term water resource planning whilst protecting and improving the environment.

  • Today, across England, public water supply accounts for 87% of consumptive abstraction
  • 14,000 million litres of water is provided by water companies every day for public water supply
  • 13% of consumptive abstraction is used by non public water supply sectors such as agriculture
  • 1,000 million litres of water is used by the non public water supply sectors every day. Both areas are growing!

Regional plans for water resources

A summary of regional plans for water resources has also been developed. Read the report at: Summary of Regional Plans for Water Resources.

The report provides a summary of the draft regional plans, on behalf of the regional planning groups. It shares how the regions have collectively developed their plans, and the proposed solutions. Each region has produced a draft plan covering the period 2025 – 2050, which aims to: 

  • Set out how the supply of water will be managed across their own region, while trying to achieve ambitious leakage reduction and lower personal consumption targets
  • Understand and address the needs of the environment in a collaborative way
  • Identify options potentially needed in their region and how the plan will deliver best value
  • Explore how the plan will adapt to different future scenarios while considering all opportunities for water transfers (within and between regions)
  • Increase resilience to drought by reducing the need for rota cuts and standpipes in extreme droughts.

See our manifesto asks

Our manifesto

Our general election manifesto – Farming for Britain's Future – outlines our key asks of the next government to ensure farmers and growers can continue to deliver for the environment, economy and local communities while producing more of the great British food we all enjoy.

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