These must include the construction of new reservoirs, both locally and linked to regional and national strategic transfer schemes to areas of greatest deficit. The country has abundant rainfall and this will be enhanced still further by the predictions of even wetter winters to come due to climate change. This provides enormous opportunities to construct far greater reservoir capacity, as part of longer-term strategic plans for more effective and efficient local and regional transfer systems, that both enhance our water environment and our resilience to drier summers and mitigate consequent water shortages in the future. Such plans are being considered alongside other options that include desalination, artificial groundwater recharge schemes, effluent recycling and local catchment schemes. These all are part of the plans under consideration by the Water “Regulator’s Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development” – known as RAPID. Given the latest IPCC report findings, however, with the accelerating impacts and worsening predictions of climate change, there is an urgent need for such actions to also be accelerated – not least because of the long lead times for reservoir development or transfer scheme commissioning.
The uncertainties around the eventual outcomes and timing of the various demand management options being pursued now make taking such action on new water supply schemes all the more urgent.
In the future many of our existing water supplies will not provide as much as they do today, resulting in less water available to supply people, support the economy and provide healthy environments for our rivers, countryside and wildlife.
The latest IPCC report presents a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. The water sources we rely upon are not only under threat from climate change, the demand from a growing population and reductions in abstraction needed for environmental enhancement are all creating additional burdens and challenges. Securing resilient and sustainable water supplies for the future requires continued action on managing demand and reducing leakage, but alongside urgent and accelerated action now to plan and commission new strategic water supplies and transfer schemes.
Awareness of the threats from climate change are now well known and are already becoming a reality. The time has now come to respond, plan and prepare for a much drier future, to be prepared and ready to respond to and recover from the serious risks of water shortages. Taking action now to adapt to this changing climate and securing resilient water supplies for the future will be costly. However, the cost of inaction will be much higher than the cost of actions now to prepare, adapt and secure resilient and long-term sustainable water supplies.