Experts have warned against believing that a wet summer has helped alleviate water scarcity in the East Midlands.
This was the message at a breakfast briefing held by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) East Midlands region held on Friday (12 October), which discussed the findings of the Institution’s State of the Nation report into water resource management, published earlier this year.
In the report, ICE rated the UK’s current water security level as 4 on a 1-10 scale.
More than 50 senior engineers, as well as key local influencers and decision makers, including local authority cabinet members, attended the event at IGEM House, Kegworth.
Matt Crabtree, a Water Sector Director – Costain and member of ICE’s Water Panel, highlighted the problems facing the region. He warned that by 2050, the current level of water availability will have reduced by two thirds due to factors which include population growth and climate change.
He outlined ICE’s response to the issue: creating a ‘UK Water Security Taskforce’, led by the government and consisting of senior figures from the water and environment sectors to develop and oversee a water security roadmap by 2014 with the aim of making the UK water secure by 2025.
ICE is also calling for universal water metering, complemented by discretionary and social tariffs, which empowers the public to use water more effectively and also protects those most vulnerable to impacts of water scarcity.
Matt Crabtree said: “ICE’s State of the Nation report was not instigated because of the drought situation, although this has clearly highlighted how serious the problem of water security is in the region.
“Although we have had an exceptionally wet summer, aquifers are still below their usual level, highlighting the need for more evenly distributed water storage throughout the UK.”
Also addressing the gathering was Neil Corrigall, Regulatory and Business Strategy Manager – Severn Trent Water.
Neil outlined the issues involved in water trading – moving water from areas with excess water to areas of water scarcity.
Currently barriers exist in three main areas:
- Technical – which are possible to overcome
- Regulatory – which will involve engagement with the Environment Agency at a national and regional level to change the current water extraction licences (i.e. allow water to be passed to another company where one company is obliged to extract it)
- Commercial – which will require changes in pricing regulations.
He added that he was hopeful that these changes can be incorporated into the Water Resource Management Plans from 2014 and that water trading is one option which must be balanced against other priorities in order to be commercially viable.
Neil commented: “Water trading is not a silver bullet solution but one of a number of options which need to be considered if viable to tackle the urgent problem of the UK’s water security.