UK Government should create ‘water security task force’

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) is calling for greater cooperation and planning to manage flooding and drought conditions after it was announced yesterday that 2012 was the second wettest year on record.

Provisional statistics released yesterday by the Met Office revealed that during 2012 the persistent wet weather amounted to 1330.7mm of rainfall, which is just 6.6mm short of the record set in 2000.

The year began with a drought, leading to hosepipe bans accross Southern and Eastern England, but quickly gave way to wet weather and floods – with April and June being the wettest on record.

Commenting on the figures, director of ICE South East England, John Laverty, said: “It is in many ways ironic that 2012 started with drought restrictions and ended with flooding in many parts of the region.

“ICE South East England has met many of the water companies in the region to discuss how we can work with them to deliver sustainable management of water resources.

“Extreme rainfall naturally diverts the focus away from drought; however there is actually no better time to be discussing how we can manage our water resources more effectively than when we have water in excess,” added Laverty.

The ICE believes that the management of drought and flooding are interdependent and require a coherent strategy, ideally led by a UK wide Water Security Task Force.

“Without a strategy, we will continue to swing from flooding to drought and climate change will only exacerbate the situation,” said Laverty.

“Developing new storage facilities across the country to harvest more rainfall must form part of this strategy – rainfall is becoming more varied in terms of time and place and we can no longer rely on large reservoirs in only a few locations.

“New facilities come at a cost however, and water companies should be incentivised and encouraged to collaborate in order to share the cost and also ensure they are developed for a range of uses such as flood control, agriculture and public water supply,” he added.

According to Laverty, there are many measures that can help manage water more effectively from multipurpose reservoirs, storage ponds for agriculture, sustainable urban drainage systems, and household rainwater harvesting.

However, this will require a strategy bringing in all of the key players involved in water resource management and usage – from regulators, farmers and industry to water companies, the public and governments across the UK.

“To set this in motion, UK governments should create a UK Water Security Task Force, providing leadership and ultimately delivering a strategy that is coherent, integrated and achieves long term water security,” said Laverty.

Leigh Stringer

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