The government must take more action to prevent parts of southern England from running out of water within the next 20 years, according to a report published yesterday (March 25) by the National Audit Office (NAO).
The UK’s total water supply is forecast to drop by 7% by 2045 due to climate change and the limits of sustainable abstraction.
Almost all of the public water supply in the UK is obtained through abstraction from ground and surface water sources, but abstracting too much water can have visible impacts on the environment and reduce biodiversity.
According to the report, even at current levels of average rainfall a reduction of 480 million litres per day of water consumption is needed within 25 years to restore abstraction to sustainable levels.
Drier weather is forecast to further reduce water supplies by 600 million litres per day.
This means that water sourced through abstraction each day is due to decline by one billion litres over the next 25 years.
This means that, without action, some parts of the country will run out of water.
The government committed to announcing a personal water consumption target by the end of 2018 but has not yet done so.
Instead, it has relied on water companies to get the message across. But according to the report, there is no evidence that this has had any impact on consumer behaviour as average water consumption continues to rise and little or no progress has been made to cut leakage.
The authors of the report conclude that Defra should promote a more coherent message about water efficiency and develop clear plan to evaluate its impact.
They suggest that Defra should work with other government departments to reduce water consumption by large public sectors, like hospitals and schools.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO said: ‘The government has made limited progress on reducing water consumption, tackling leakage and sharing water resources between regions in the last five years, but rapid progress is now vital for the government to deliver its objective of a resilient water supply.
‘Defra needs to provide stronger leadership to water companies, regulators and consumers.’
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