The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has welcomed moves by ministers to tackle water leakages and drought which will be set out in a draft National Policy Statement this week.
The Commission was responding to commitments set out in a speech by Environment Secretary Michael Gove yesterday at the launch of the UK Climate Impacts Report 2018 on the Government’s approach to storing and managing water.
The Minister told his audience that climate change would “manifest itself most acutely” in thehydrologic system, saying:
“The intense rainfall of the winter, the arid heat of the summer, and rising sea levels will be how we experience climate change most immediately in our everyday lives. “
While successive Governments have made good progress on mitigating flood risk, he continued, as the risk of flooding and coastal erosion increases, a new long-term approach is needed. The Government will publish a long term policy statement next year and the Environment Agency will issue a new 50-year strategy, also next year.
Commenting on droughts, Michael Gove said the UK’s high population density means the available water per person is actually less than in many Mediterranean countries. The experience of this summer, and the evidence of the projections, underscored the need to make water supplies more resilient to a warmer climate in the future, he added.
Via the Government’s twin-track approach, on the supply side, the UK needs to capture and store more rainwater and on the demand side, water must be conserved and used more efficiently.
Draft National Policy Statement on expediting construction of new infrastructure to be published this week
He went on to tell his audience that climate change, coupled with a rising population, will require new water supply infrastructure. However, in part because of company behaviour, in part because of regulatory barriers, the UK had not built any major new reservoirs since the water industry was privatised.
This week the Government will publish a new draft National Policy Statement on water resources which would include a target for water companies to halve leakages and how it will expedite the construction of new infrastructure, like water transfers and reservoirs to support areas suffering water shortages.
New target of halving water leakage by 2050
Michael Gove commented:
“Relying solely on new water infrastructure would prove expensive for bill payers and create pressures on the natural environment. So we will also tackle waste and excessive consumption of water. Since privatisation, leakage has fallen by a third. But we still lose three billion litres of water to leaks every day. That’s why I am setting water companies a stretching new target to halve leakage by 2050.”
The plans to improve the resilience of England’s water supply and set a clear target to halve water leakages by 2050 match a key recommendation by the National Infrastructure Commission – the NIC said such a move would ensure the country’s water supply system could better withstand droughts.
The Commission’s report, Preparing for a Drier Future considered how to make England’s water infrastructure resilient to droughts – something expected to be more frequent as a consequence of climate change.
Responding to the Environment Secretary’s speech, a spokesperson for the National Infrastructure Commission said:
“With climate change increasing drought risk England can’t afford to lose 3 billion litres of water every day, so we’re pleased to see Michael Gove endorsing our recommendations to halve leakages by 2050.
“We’re also pleased the National Policy Statement will make it easier to deliver new reservoirs and water transfers to increase the capacity of the system and support areas in greatest need.”
“These measures are an important step towards a more resilient water supply.”