Climate change aggravating water crisis in England with hotter, drier summers

Climate change is bringing hotter, drier summers and less predictable rain patterns – putting greater pressure on freshwater resources

Danny Halpin
Thursday 11 May 2023 04:56 BST
Seven English regions could face severe water stress by 2030 – spreading to almost the entire south and midlands by 2040, new analysis has shown (PA)
Seven English regions could face severe water stress by 2030 – spreading to almost the entire south and midlands by 2040, new analysis has shown (PA) (PA Wire)

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Seven English regions could face severe water stress by 2030 – spreading to almost the entire south and midlands by 2040, a new analysis has shown.

Using data from water companies and the Environment Agency, home improvement company Kingfisher’s research suggests a total of 12 out of 17 English regions could face severe water stress in the coming two decades unless action is taken.

Water stress is when demand exceeds the available supply.

No region currently faces water stress but the warming climate is expected to bring longer and hotter spells during the summer which will put extra pressure on UK water resources.

Households use an average of 144 litres per day and the government has set itself the target of reducing this to 122 litres by 2038 and 110 litres by 2050.

In its Plan for Water, the government said installing water butts, using water more sensibly and more efficiently as well as fixing leaks quickly, turning off the tap while brushing teeth and installing smart meters will help reduce demand.

It also wants water companies to reduce leakage in their pipelines; some 20 per cent of the public water supply is lost this way.

Kingfisher, which partnered with economics consultants Cebr for its analysis, said water use has risen by three litres per person per day in the last five years.

Thierry Garnier, CEO of Kingfisher, said: “Across Europe, we are experiencing more extreme weather, leading to increasing water scarcity in many regions.

“As the impact of climate change becomes more apparent, measures such as hose pipe bans are set to become much more common, with increasingly strong measures needed to reduce demand.”

A separate survey of 3,000 UK adults, commissioned by Kingfisher, found people tend to underestimate their water use; some 66 per cent said they probably use less than 140 litres a day while 29 per cent felt unable to guess.

On average, people thought they used just 57 litres of water per day, Kingfisher said.

More than half of respondents said they leave the tap on while brushing their teeth, a figure that rose to 70 per cent among Londoners – one of the regions most likely to face future water stress and where the amount of water lost through pipe leaks is among the highest in the country.

Only 25 per cent said they shower for under five minutes, while 40 per cent said they shower for eight minutes or longer.

The average shower uses 12 litres per minute, according to water company estimates, so an eight-minute shower could be using as much as 96 litres.

Kingfisher said more than 40 per cent of water in the home is used for showers, baths and hand-washing, with toilets using around 30%.

Almost 80 per cent of respondents said reducing the amount of water they use is important to them, with three in four believing saving water is more important now than a decade ago.

Mr Garnier said: “We all have a role to play in conserving water. Making simple and affordable changes in our homes can have a huge impact, from installing water butts to collect rainwater for the garden to fitting tap aerators or low-flow shower heads.

“Governments can also help by encouraging the rollout of smart water meters and supporting the public to be more informed about water.

“By taking action now, we can put our water usage on a more sustainable path and safeguard this essential resource for the future.”

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