Waterwise Policy Position on Drought
(last updated) February 2012
Water efficiency is the key to shifting towards a culture in which we value and use our resources wisely year-round, regardless of weather.
Water efficiency is instrumental in easing drought, both in the short-term and in the long-term. In times of shortage wasting less water – in homes, buildings and businesses – makes the water that is available go further.
But water efficiency is not just an emergency measure – it is the key to shifting towards a culture in which we value and use our resources wisely year-round, regardless of weather.
Despite some excellent water efficiency work by water companies with their customers in recent years, water efficiency is still a tiny part of what the UK water industry does – less than 1% of their investment.
Read Nicci's Soapbox from Utility Week (6 April 2012)
In the last few years the UK has seen widespread drought and devastating floods, and both of these have led to water supply challenges in homes. The most recent UK Climate Impact Projections show greater unpredictability in rainfall and longer, drier summers in coming decades.
Many areas of England are either in drought or have been in recent years, and Environment Agency maps of England show both serious water stress and over-abstraction of water.
Even Scotland and Wales have experienced pockets of drought or water stress in recent years. And it is known that in coming decades there will be more people and less water in the UK, so less water will need to go even further.
Our entire economy and energy systems depend on water; we need to start managing our water supply better
There is already an increase in single-person households, which use more water per person, and water companies are predicting increases in outdoor watering and personal washing. England's population will increase by almost 10 million by 2035, and population growth will be larger in already water-stressed areas like South East England.
We all need water, and our entire economy and energy systems depend on it
We need to start managing our water supply better, rather than relying on building expensive infrastructure to meet ever-increasing demand. Short-term emergency measures won't solve what may be a long-term issue, and nor will reservoirs alone: they still require rain!
Water efficiency is not an emergency measure – it is an essential component of a necessary shift toward a culture in which we value and use our resources wisely year-round, regardless of weather.
Water companies, supported by government policy and regulation, should be retrofitting homes to make them water-efficient, on a scale of whole towns, and working with customers to help them waste less water year in and year out.
Short-term water efficiency measures and messages are certainly important at the height of drought. But longer-term investment in water efficiency on a large scale is essential to help us sustainably manage the water we have all year round.
"Droughts are natural events. A drought happens when a period of low rainfall creates a shortage of water for people, the environment, agriculture, or industry. Some droughts are short and intense, for example, a hot, dry summer, while others are long and take some time to develop. Dry winters can have the biggest impact on water resources. We rely on winter rain to top up groundwater and reservoir levels while summer rain helps to maintain reservoir levels and keep rivers flowing."