Industry and government tackle threat to future water supplies

The Environment Agency has launched a long-term plan for meeting the challenges the UK’s water supplies are likely to face as a result of climate change and population growth.

The Environment Agency has launched a long-term plan for meeting the challenges the UK’s water supplies are likely to face as a result of climate change and population growth.

The National Framework for Water Resources brings together industry, regulators and government to transform the way we use and look after our water supplies. The framework aims to help reduce demand, halve leakage rates, develop new supplies, move water to where it’s needed and reduce the need for drought measures that can harm the environment.

The latest predictions estimate that if further action is not taken, between 2025 and 2050 the UK will need more than 3.4bn additional litres of water per day to meet future demand for public water supply.

The framework looks to ease the pressure on our future water supplies by:

  • Reducing demand to an average of 110 litres per person per day by 2050;
  • Improving water efficiency across all sectors;
  • Working with water companies to halve leakage rates by 2050;
  • Developing new supplies such as reservoirs, water re-use schemes and desalination plants;
  • Making it easier to move water to where it’s needed through regional water transfers;
  • Reducing the use of drought measures that can impact the environment.

The framework introduces an ambitious aim for water companies to help consumers cut wastage and to use water more wisely in order to reduce individual average water use from 143 to 110 litres per day.

Five regional groups across the country will work up plans tailored to the specific needs of their individual area, bringing together the 17 English water companies, industry regulators, government and other water users. The framework will guide these groups and deliver a national blueprint for future water resources planning from 2025 to 2050 and beyond.

The framework also sets out the challenges that water-intensive industries such as agriculture and power generation are likely to face across different parts of the country as a result of climate change, and how those challenges can be met.

It also sets a greater level of ambition for restoring, protecting and improving the environment that is the source of all our supplies.

Rebecca Pow, environment minister, said: “I am pleased to see the Environment Agency challenging water companies to work more collaboratively to increase water efficiency. This framework is a significant step in the right direction, bringing together consumers, businesses and industry to reduce our water demand, and to put in place the infrastructure we need while preserving our water environment for decades to come.”

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “If we don’t take action many areas of England will face water shortages by 2050. The National Framework for Water Resources is the step change required to ensure the needs of all water users are brought together to better manage and share resources. Collaboration is key if we are going to deliver the resilience and environmental enhancement we need.”

Dame Kate Barker of the National Infrastructure Commission said: “With demand for water growing and the stability of supply under challenge from climate change, we need a coherent long term plan that ensures England’s water system is resilient to drought while continuing to provide a reliable supply to families and businesses.

“We welcome this framework’s bold vision, in line with the conclusions in our National Infrastructure Assessment. It is clear about the need to protect our natural environment and promotes collaboration between water companies, regulators, government and major users to reduce demand, increase supply and better share scarce water resources.”

Click here to download the National Framework for Water Resources.

If you would like to contact Rob O’Connor about this, or any other story, please email