‘Great British Rain Paradox’: Public unaware of UK’s water scarcity

The risks of climate change and population growth on water scarcity in the UK remain hidden, with a new survey of 2,000 Brits revealing that water consumption is low down on the priority agenda for environmental concerns.

‘Great British Rain Paradox’: Public unaware of UK’s water scarcity

According to the survey

The findings of the Great British Rain Paradox survey warn that 72% of the British public believe the UK has enough water to meet daily demands. However, the public remains largely unaware of the risks that population growth and climate change will have on water supplies.

February 2020 was the wettest on record and May 2020 was one of the driest, highlighting the impact that climate change will have on weather patterns in the UK. While winter months are expected to get wetter, the summer months will get drier.

Currently, daily household water usage on a per person basis is 143 litres. In comparison, per person water usage in the 1960s was around 85 litres. The Environment Agency has warned that around 3,435 million extra litres of water could be required each day, if not action is taken to improve water usage between 2025 and 2050.

However, the report, supported by the Environment Agency and Water UK, reveals that water consumption ranks below other environmental considerations for members of the public wishing to live more sustainably.

According to the survey, 10% of the public consider water consumption a key environmental consideration. This ranks below plastic pollution (39%), energy consumption (22%), generation of food waste (16%), and carbon footprints (11%).

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of England’s Environment Agency, said: “People might wonder how a country with such a reputation for rain like the UK could reach a tipping point where demand for water outstrips supply in just 25 years. But this may become a reality if we don’t take action to save water now.

“The fact is a convergence of factors underpinned by climate change has led us to this frightening prospect. But if we all take concerted action now, we can ensure that there will be enough water to go around for generations to come.”

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, however, has raised the appreciation of water use in the UK.

The report found that 83% now appreciate access to clean water in order to wash their hands. Having been placed in lockdown, 82% now appreciate the natural world more, while 76% are more aware of the impact that they have on the natural environment.

With 69% of respondents claiming to be more concerned about the environment and sustainability, the report is calling on the public to reduce water usage on a daily basis.

Running short

The South East of England is facing the greatest pressure on public water supplies.

Unsustainable water abstraction processes and infrastructure, compounded by climate change and population growth, will result in parts of southern England running out of water within 20 years.

The National Audit Office (NAO) to the UK Government, in its latest water supply and demand management report, warned that the amount of water available for abstraction nationally each day will fall more than one billion litres by 2045.

This figure consists of 600 million litres per day lost to drier weather, and the current overconsumption of around 480 million litres per day. The NAO claims this is equivalent to 7% of the country’s total annual water supply.

The report came after Water UK criticised the Government’s previous action and planned moves for water efficiency in homes and business.

Less recently, the Environment Agency (EA) warned Ministers and the UK public that, under existing policy frameworks, England is likely to run short of water within 25 years.

Matt Mace

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