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energy and resources
Water, Water - Flood or Drought?
by Edward Dawson, Regional Director CPRE South East
In the future we could experience both flood and drought at the same time. Water resources issues have galvanised people as never before; it will be a major concern in CPRE's campaigning efforts on the emerging Regional Spatial Strategies. The problems of water supply feature in the South East, East of England and North West Plans. A basic concern is whether there will be enough to cope with the pressures for development. Issues of water quality and the viability of the water environment have also come to the fore.
There is also some impetus for improving water efficiency. This has led the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to undertake a study of measures that might make better use of water resources at regional level. In the South East CPRE, through its membership of the Water Resources Forum is a member of the IPPR advisory group.
The North West may not be short of water, because of its famous Lake District. However, it recognises the need for integrated water management. Its Regaional Spatial Strategy (RSS) has highlighted the need to manage demand for water in the region, and to combat the adverse effects of urban waste water and agricultural run off on water quality.
The East of England and the South East contain significant areas that are water stressed, but have a high demand for water, fuelled by a semi-arid climate, population growth and affluence, and changing lifestyles. Water demand in these regions could increase by 20 per cent up to 2015, depending on the rate of economic and population growth. This does not account for climate change, which will have implications for both water supplies and water quality. There are plans for further on-land storage, in the form of several new reservoirs.
The Sustainable Communities Plan suggested the need for 200,000 new homes above current targets up to 2030, in four growth areas. Kate Barker has argued that housing completions would have to double to meet affordability targets. With several growth areas located in the driest parts of the south, such growth presents a significant challenge to those managing water resources. It will only be possible to provide enough water to meet demand if new supplies are developed and demand management measures are speeded up.
What can you do? Support the work of the regional groups in promoting a more rational and sustainable approach to water resources. In highlighting these elements, the overall aims should include:
The energy demand of water production is another reason to improve the contribution from demand management. Plans for new supplies include energy intensive desalination plants, while mains water has an embodied energy element. More stringent water quality standards will increase the energy demands of treatment processes still further.
Increasing efficiency of resource use is a goal in the Government's sustainable development strategy. The 2003 Water Act placed a duty on the Secretary of State to take appropriate steps to encourage water conservation, and to report progress to Parliament every three years. Water companies and public bodies also have a duty to conserve water. Water companies are set leakage targets based on the economic level of leakage. Most companies, with the exception of Thames Water are meeting these, but leakage remains a barrier to encouraging customers to change their habits. Unlike energy providers, water companies do not set customer efficiency targets, although companies are expected to undertake various measures to encourage customer water conservation.
Whether water resources prove to be a showstopper for further development remains to be seen. However, CPRE will ensure that water issues remain in the public mind through its campaigns, and through raising awareness generally.
CPRE Regional Contacts:
24 April 2006
Registered Charity No: 245967
Tel: 01962 779185 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org