Innovative Solutions to Water Scarcity in England

Innovative Solutions to Water Scarcity in England

The East of England’s water resources are challenged by a variety of mega-trends. Read how Anglian Water has formed the Water Resources East (WRE) initiative to bring stakeholders together to manage shared water resources wisely.

By Robert C. Brears*

The East of England is a unique and diverse part of the United Kingdom environmentally, economically, and socially. The area’s Norfolk Broads — UK’s most extensive lowland wetland — are home to more than a quarter of Britain’s rarest wildlife and 125 miles of waterways, its rich fertile agricultural lands provide 40% of England’s vegetables, the East of England supports around 20% of England’s power plants, and the populations of the bustling cities of Cambridge, Norwich, and Peterborough (home to the majority of the region’s 10.5 million inhabitants) are increasing rapidly.

Water scarcity

The region is the driest part of the UK, with increasing needs for water resources challenged by limited availability: within the next couple of decades the amount of water needed to meet public water supply demands could reach 4,000 megaliters a day (ML/d) in a high-growth, unsustainable future, which is equivalent to an extra 2,000 Olympic size swimming pools per day. Even under the best-case scenario, where levels of household demand are controlled, it is predicted that the gap between supply and demand for water could still be at least 750 ML/day (40 Olympic size swimming pools) under a business-as-usual approach to water consumption. At the same time, water supply will become variable with climate change projected to result in surface water flows into rivers decreasing by up to 30% and possible increases in regional drought.

WRE promoting innovative thinking

In response to the various challenges, WRE is a multi-sector water resource planning strategy that promotes the sharing of ideas, expertise, and best practices between sectors with a focus on managing water demand and protecting the environment. The priority areas WRE is encouraging innovative thinking on are:

·  Reducing water-energy nexus pressures : The coastline of the region stretches for around 1,000 miles making energy efficient desalination a possibility to meet future water demand

·  Industrial water recycling : Water used in industrial processes can be reclaimed for storage and reuse for the same purpose, for agricultural irrigation, or event domestic purposes (flushing toilets, outdoor taps etc.)

·  Water trading : WRE is exploring the possibility of developing transfer pipelines to share and transfer surplus water resources between companies and across sectors

·  Uniting flood control and water supply : There is a possibility of working with drainage authorities and boards to change procedures from pumping away excess water to capturing it for use in the public water supply system

·  Natural infrastructure : WRE will explore the feasibility of directing excess flood water and overflow from new and existing dams and reservoirs to aquifers for use in times of high demand or drought

·  Managing demand : WRE will focus on how to effectively engage customers on the need to conserve water, maximizing the potential outcomes of water demand approaches that include water conservation, using grey water, and installation of water-saving equipment

The take-out

New partnerships that promote innovative solutions to water scarcity need to become the norm.

*Robert C. Brears is the author of  Urban Water Security  (Wiley),  The Green Economy and the Water-Energy-Food Nexus (Palgrave Macmillan),  Natural Resource Management and the Circular Economy   (Palgrave Macmillan),  Blue and Green Cities: The Role of Blue-Green Infrastructure in Managing Urban Water Resources   (Palgrave Macmillan), and  Climate Resilient Water Resources Management  (Palgrave Macmillan). He is Founder of Our Future WaterMitidaption, and Mark and Focus.

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