New roadmap to support water sector resilience

The UK Government has launched a framework which sets out plans for supporting long term resilience in the water sector. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) roadmap explains how […]

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By Jacqueline Echevarria

The UK Government has launched a framework which sets out plans for supporting long term resilience in the water sector.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) roadmap explains how it will enhance its policy framework to deal with pressures like climate change and a growing population and deliver a cleaner and healthier environment.

It states by the 2050s summer temperatures would increase while rainfall decreases, leading to risks of short-duration droughts.

Water companies currently determine how to balance supply and demand over a minimum of 25 years, which means they have to identify all the options that are available to them to meet demand over the long term and show how they have decided which options to pursue.

However “it has not fundamentally increased the resilience of water supplies” in parts of the country or driven a step change in how water is traded between regions therefore Defra has asked the industry to develop a long term plan for the country’s water needs for the next 50 years.

It believes looking at future water needs at a national level reveals more options for balancing supply and demand than are available within regions.

“For example, there is potential to trade more water between companies and possibilities to develop water supply infrastructure to supply multiple companies,” it states.

The roadmap adds companies will need to consider every option to balance supply against demand, “including options outside their own boundaries” to identify the best value solutions in order to meet the water scarcity challenge.

Defra believes innovation must be a part of addressing future pressure and long term planning and investment are essential to securing the water sector’s resilience.

It also suggests sewerage companies could encourage sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) and green infrastructures to manage surface water and reduce the demand on the network.

The government claims it is taking action to promote the use of markets in the water sector.

It will be opening a retail competition in the non-household market in England next year, which is expected to create the largest retail water market in the world and deliver £200 million in benefits to the country.

The report added: “Securing the long term resilience of the water sector is not simply the role of government or regulators. Water companies must lead the way in taking action to ensure that they can continue to meet the needs of people, businesses and the environment.

“We want to see the sector work with customers, partners and regulators to develop a strong understanding of future needs, explore every option to meet these needs and build consensus on their plans for delivery. Outside of the public water supply, we want to see businesses assessing and managing their resilience risks and coming together to find the best way to meet their needs.”