Water security in the UK : a pilot model-based study of current and future water security in the UK

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, British Geological Survey. 2012 Water security in the UK : a pilot model-based study of current and future water security in the UK. Wallingford, UK, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, 74pp. (CEH Project Number: C04352)

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In its recent report on 'Water Resources in England and Wales – Current State and Future Pressures', the Environment Agency reminds readers that “Compared to the rest of Europe, water resources [in South East and Eastern England] are under greater stress only in drier countries such as Cyprus, Malta, Spain and Italy” (Environment Agency, 2008). While readers of this report will no doubt be aware of comparisons of this type, they can cause surprise to the general public. The general perception is that, unlike these countries that many UK residents visit for sunshine holidays, we live in a wet country within which any disruption to the public water supply is very rare. Furthermore there is limited recognition of the environmental consequence of our exploitation of water resources. In attempts to make the facts and figures of water usage more relevant for the general public the media and industry have a love of non-traditional units, a particular favourite being the Olympic-size swimming pool, see for example, the websites of Thames Water1 and the BBC2 The truth is that the UK’s water environment is highly managed in an attempt to satisfy the multiple competing demands for water resources. Future pressures, notably changes to the climate and shifts in population, will change both the available water resources and the demands for water. , which tells us that the equivalent of five Olympic sized swimming pools are abstracted from the aquifer beneath the River Kennet every day. Even if this does manage to convey a volume of water, in itself, this gives no insight into the sustainability of such an abstraction. So, while a comparison with Italy or Spain draws attention to the challenge, it would help and inform to have simple but meaningful indicators of the water stress facing today’s and tomorrow’s water managers and policy makers. This is the challenge addressed in this report: can the security of our future water resources be described without reference to favourite holiday destinations, or Olympic-size swimming pools? The approach adopted has been to use a UK-scale, model-based, assessment system that allows the consideration of a wide range of environmental (supply-side) and demand-side scenarios. This assessment system requires the integration and analysis of many large data sets, and has the potential to deliver an overwhelming variety of information. To meet the challenge presented above, this complexity has been encapsulated in a single indicator.

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
Programmes: BGS Programmes 2010 > Groundwater Science
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Water > WA Topic 3 - Science for Water Management > WA - 3.2 - Assessment of available water resources in a changing world ...
CEH Sections/Science Areas: Boorman (to September 2014)
Directors, SCs
Funders/Sponsors: NERC, LWEC
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Meteorology and Climatology
Date made live: 17 Sep 2012 12:57 +0 (UTC)

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