England Faces A Water Shortage

England’s Environment Agency has recently released a report stating that England is in danger of running out of water, and that people must curb their water usage as well as fix water supply leaks if future water shortages are to be prevented.

Many sources of water in England are already under pressure and overused, and this problem may only grow in the future as the population in England is growing. Add to this the pressures of global climate change, and the EA warns that substantial portions of England could see major water supply shortages by 2050.

Billions Of Liters Of Wasted Water

According to the EA’s report, approximately 9,500 billion liters of water were pulled from water sources around England during the year of 2016. Of that amount, 3 billion liters a day are wasted due to leaking pipes. These 3 billion liters could supply 20 million people with water on an average day in England. However, even more water ends up wasted by households, and the average amount of water used by a person in England is 140 liters. According to the EA’s report around a third of all the water obtained for use is wasted due to treatment losses, home misuse, and water supply leaks.

Energy generation is also a considerable drain on the water supply, the report says. The creation of more renewable resources or more nuclear power stations could help reduce the use of water, though the report warns that if fossil fuel power plants are upgraded with technology used to capture carbon emissions, it might increase overall water use.

The current population of England is estimated to be around 55 million people, and it is expected to rise to approximately 58.5 million by the year 2026. The EA’s report states in no uncertain terms that unless methods to reduce water use and increase water supply are utilized, most areas of England will not have enough water to meet their demands by this time. Even if the population does not grow as quickly as predicted, and even if the worst changes to the climate are staved off, significant water shortages are still predicted to occur by 2050, particularly in the southeast region of England.

Environmental Damage

The amount of water that is harvested from water tables is unsustainable for approximately 28% of all groundwater resources utilized in 2017, according to the report. Approximately a fifth of all the surface water sources are also being used at unsustainable levels. Accordingly, between 6 to 15% of rivers around England are suffering from overuse and are in poor environmental condition. Human overuse of water from streams and groundwater sources can harm the larger environment by leaving less water for use by birds, fish, and a variety of aquatic plants. Wetlands are particularly fragile ecosystems that play host to a wide variety of different lifeforms.

A river in West Yorkshire. Photo: 12019 via Pixabay, CC0

The disappearance of water reserves due to human overuse is only exacerbated by the warming of the climate, causing drier conditions overall and decreased water flow during the summer months. Less flowing water means the presence of more stagnant water during times of drought, which could lead to explosions in populations of mosquitoes and other parasites which carry illnesses such as West Nile virus.

It’s difficult to say exactly how climate change will affect England in the future, but it could end up causing both severe droughts and severe floods. While average rainfall over the summer is not predicted to change, the rain is likely to come in larger downpours which are more spaced apart. This increases the chances of both floods and drought. The more spaced out summer rains, as well as the increased evaporation caused by climate change, could put even more pressure on already suffering wetland areas.

The chairperson of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, says that the population of England must change their attitudes regarding how they use water, to ensure that the environment remains healthy and that there is enough of the precious resource to go around.

Photo: firalivet via Pixabay, CC0

Says Boyd:

Industry must innovate and change behaviours in order to reduce demand and cut down on wastage – and we all have a duty to use water more wisely at home. With demand on the rise, water companies must invest more in infrastructure to address leakage instead of relying on abstraction and the natural environment to make up this shortfall.

Reducing Water Waste

The government of England is already suggesting that People begin altering their lifestyle habits to reduce the amount of water that they use, according to the government’s 25-year plan, which was made official earlier this year. Water efficiency advocacy groups are hoping to get the 140 L of water that people use per day down to around 40 liters or less, and are optimistic they can accomplish it within the next 20 to 25 years.

Despite this, George Eustice, the Environment Minister of England, recently said that the Environment Agency’s proposed water usage guidelines aren’t mandated, and that nobody should worry that the government will be shutting off their taps. Instead, the guidelines are a system intended to encourage people to think more critically about how they use water and to be more mindful of their consumption. The government wants to encourage the use of low flow toilets systems and similar innovations to reduce the overall usage of water.

There are already encouraging signs that water usage has been trending downwards, according to Michael Roberts, from Water UK. Roberts says that the average domestic consumption of water has been trending downwards for the last decade, and the same is true for leakage. Water leakage is now at approximately only two-thirds of what it was 30 years ago, though Roberts notes that there is still plenty more work to be done.

England isn’t the only country that will likely have to start finding ways to reduce its water usage. A recent study done by NASA scientists has found more than 30 regions across the globe where freshwater deposits are being depleted in dramatic fashions, and the study has said that it has identified “clear human fingerprints” associated with the loss of these freshwater areas.