This was the stark warning from Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Water Panel chair Michael Norton, who described the hosepipe ban as a “necessary move to mitigate current water shortages”.

Taking action to do just this is Severn Trent which today (April 10) announced that it is considering plans to trade enough water to supply 10,000 homes in the drought ridden Anglian Water region.

It confirmed that technical discussions are underway as it looks at how 30m litres of raw water can be transferred 80 miles from Birmingham to Gainsborough using its water grid network. It added that work could begin as soon as June.

Severn Trent water strategy manger, David Essex, added: “This could be the first example of emergency water trading and a sign of things to come as water becomes scarcer and needs to be moved around the country.”

The group’s water resources manager, Marcus O’Kane said that it can afford to do this as a result of “careful water resource management” which has helped strengthen its network, adding that over the last six months it has focused on moving raw water supplies across its water ‘grid’ from the wetter west to the drier east in order to balance out regional supplies.

The suggestion is currently being explored by the Collaborative Drought Planning Group, alongside Water UK and any final proposal would need to be ratified by the Environment Agency before it would be put into operation.

Anglian Water head of drought response Simon Love said that the company is taking the idea of water trading “seriously” as it explores a number of options to help support the drought-hit region, including the movement of water across water company boundaries.

Mr Norton partly agrees saying that regional transfers using already established waterways or interconnections across water company water systems have “more merit and may have a role to play in future”.

However, he also warns that a national water grid is “impractical both economically and environmentally”, saying it is a “major undertaking” that couldn’t be done in the near future due to financial and logistical constraints.

This, he says is because “you can’t compare it to the national electricity grid; water is a heavy incompressible liquid which requires huge quantities of carbon-based energy to move it”.

Instead, he called for companies to focus on preventative measures for addressing water scarcity in order to stop regions getting to the drought stage which he says will safe-guard water resources in the future.

Carys Matthews

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