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North of England should act to avoid water shortages - report

30 August 2019

By Robin Hackett

North of England should act to avoid water shortages - report

A new report has said action to promote a sustainable approach to water resources is required to avoid the risk of shortages in northern England.

IPPR, a registered charity, published ‘Natural Assets North: Water in the Northern Powerhouse’ to highlight the role that water plays in the Northern Powerhouse economy, the degree to which the region is resilient to the impact of climate change and other trends on the supply of water, and implications for policymakers at a local, pan-northern and national level.

The report suggested that, while water stress is a bigger factor in south east England, action will be required to mitigate the risk of scarcity, which should include significant efforts to drive down consumption as well as cutting leakage.

Although United Utilities and Northumbrian Water expect to have sufficient supplies over the next 25 years, IPPR pointed out that Yorkshire Water has forecast that its main water resource zone will be in deficit relative to target headroom from 2035/36 onwards without intervention.

The report also warned that there is “considerable uncertainty” over forecasts and that the impacts of climate change could be more severe than expected.

“The compound effects of climate change and economic and population growth are introducing significant pressures on the water supply of the north of England,” it said. “Although much of the north – unlike parts of the south of England – is not considered water stressed, the region’s water security cannot be taken for granted.

“There are very limited opportunities to substantially increase the supply of water, for example by building new reservoirs, because of a lack of water availability, abstraction limitations, and the likely impact upon the natural environment.

“Instead, to ensure the region remains water resilient, we will have to make better use of our existing water supply, by managing demand, reducing leakage and encouraging greater water efficiency.

“The water companies have a statutory responsibility to supply water and should be held accountable to ensure that they can deliver the improvements in service that they are promising.

“However, because of the nature and scale of the issue, and the possible consequences of water scarcity, this cannot solely be the responsibility of the water industry alone – instead all agencies have a role to play in helping to mitigate the risks and maximise the opportunities for the future.”

It added: “Policymakers across the whole region need to be aware of and take action against these pressures, in collaboration with those with statutory responsibilities for the water supply, to minimise and manage the future risks to the North’s economy, its population and its natural environment.”

Yorkshire Water is targeting a 25 per cent reduction in leakage over the course of AMP7, while United Utilities has a 20 per cent target and Northumbrian Water’s is 15 per cent.

Adrian Thompson, managing director of pipeline specialists Ant Hire Solutions, told WWT: “The UK’s water network is facing unprecedented challenges in the face of climate change, ever-increasing demand due to population growth, and leakage from existing and new pipes entering the network.

“Some 3.2 billion litres of water are lost through leakage every single day. However, this can be dramatically reduced and we are increasingly seeing water utilities adopting more innovative, technologically advanced tools and techniques to capture and analyse data in order to identify problem pipes and take control of leakage.”

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