While floods struck all over the world, with Madagascar, Mexico, Australia, Vietnam and the Caribbean among the most hard hit locations, it was the unexpected summer flooding in the UK which will have the most lasting impact on the domestic water sector.

Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire were the worst-affected areas with the flooding reported to be the most serious in 60 years.

The financial cost of the disaster was estimated to be in the region of £3bn and the cost in human misery enormous as many found themselves homeless and treasured possessions ruined by the flood waters.

In February the EU had agreed on mutual support for member states in times of serious flood and the UK became the first country to receive a payout to help offset the cost of recovery later in the year.

Brussels also published its flood directive, urging member states to assess flood risks and have action plans in place by 2015.

And while many parts of the world suffered from unseasonably strong precipitation, other areas prayed for rain – in some cases quite literally.

Sonny Perdue, Governor of Georgia, very publicly appealed to God to alleviate the drought in his patch while other southern states looked long and hard at the strain on their limited water resources, often forced to make tough decisions about priorities.

Australia also wrestled with its own water woes, with much political wrangling over who had rights to use what water – a debate which in one case led to a killing after a man was attacked because his assailant believed he was breaching a hosepipe ban – wrongly, as it turned out.

In the outback, feral camels were driven mad by thirst and took to raiding remote settlements in search of food and water.

The Spanish government said it could not guarantee the water supply to up to 300,000 new houses under development, as pressures on the country’s water resources, particularly in the south, meant there would no longer be enough to go round.

China too suffered serious droughts with millions affected by water shortages.

Matters were made worse by huge algal blooms in some reservoirs making what water there was undrinkable.

Algae also proved a problem in the Gulf of Mexico, with the oxygen-starved ‘dead zone’ – an annual phenomenon – the biggest yet.

Back in the UK, Ofwat issued a series of major fines to poorly performing water companies but came under fire from MPs for not doing enough to promote customer choice within the sector.

Despite vocal opposition from London’s Mayor, Ken Livingstone, plans for a controversial desalination plant on the banks of the Thames finally received approval after agreeing to a number of environmental measures including sourcing energy to power its operation from renewable sources.

On the other side of the country, proposals for a tidal barrier in the Severn estuary also sparked controversy, with conservationists caught between a rock and a hard place as they continued to support the idea of renewable energy, but feared extensive damage to ecosystems.

Sam Bond

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