25 years until England’s water demand outstrips supply, EA chief warns

Water supplies in England will be outweighed by demand in the early 2040s creating a ‘jaws of death’ scenario unless action is taken, the Environment Agency’s chief executive has warned.

In a speech this morning at a conference hosted by water efficiency organisation Waterwise, Sir James Bevan said climate change and population growth had created an “existential threat” and an impending crisis where water supply might be unable to match demand in 20 – 25 years time.

“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the jaws of death – the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs,” Bevan said.

Bevan told delegates the EA anticipates that by 2040, more than half of England’s summers will exceed the record-breaking temperatures and dry spells of 2003, which was responsible for 2,000 heat-related deaths in the UK.

In conjunction with a rapidly warming climate, by 2050 water supply could be down by 10-15%, with some rivers seeing 50%-80% less water during the summer months. The south-east could be faced with significant acute water deficits in particular, Bevan said.

The EA is also accounting for a predicted population increase of eight million people by 2050.

Bevan said reducing leakage, water metering, sustainable drainage systems, new building regulations to drive greater water efficiency and reducing personal consumption were critical to solving the problem.

There is also an urgent need to build new reservoirs and set up more water transfers between regions from areas of water surplus to areas of deficit, according to Bevan. Currently only 4% of water supplies are transferred between water companies.

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Planning Act 2008

In force/
Current
Legislation
England, Scotland, Wales
Published
06 Apr 2016

Commentary

27/03/2015 Amending Order (SI 2015/949) published.
10/03/2016 Amending Order (SI 2016/306) published., 16/01/2017 Amending Regulations (SI 2017/16) published, for England and Wales only.
02/11/2017 Amending Regulations (SI 2017/1012) published.
10/11/2017 Commencement Order (No. 3) (
SI 2017/1078) published, for England only., 28/11/2018 Amending Regulations (SI 2018/1232) published.

Compliance Dates

26/11/2008 Received Royal Assent, 26/11/2008 Provisions of Parts 1 to 9 (except Section 194(2) to (5) and paragraph 7 of Schedule 7) come into force (see Section 241), 26/11/2008 Part 11, except Sections 206, 211(7), 224 and 225 come into force (see Section 241), 26/11/2008 Part 12, except Section 238, comes into force (see Section 241), 26/01/2009 Sections 194(2) to (5), 201, 202, 203 and 225 (together with related entries in Schedule 13), and paragraph 7 of Schedule 7, come into force (see Section 241)
01/03/2010 Certain Sections including Sections 15 to 20 and Sections 22 to 26 brought into force by The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No.4 and Saving) Order 2010 (SI 2010/101)
06/04/2010 Certain provisions brought into force by the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 5 and Saving) Order 2010 (SI 2010/566)
06/04/2011 Sections 14(1)(o) and 29 brought into force by the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 6) Order 2011 (SI 2011/705)
01/10/2011 Sections 14(1)(p), 30 and 153 and Schedule 6 brought into force by the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 7) Order 2011 (SI 2011/2054)
06/04/2012 Sections 192 and Schedule 8 (tree preservation orders), Section 193 (existing tree preservation orders: transitional provisions), and Section 238 and Schedule 13 (repeals relating to trees specified in the Schedule to SI 2012/601) come into force for, 28/11/2014 Section 198 (appeals relating to old mining permissions) comes into force, in relation to Wales, insofar as it is not already in force (see the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 3) (Wales) Order (
01/01/2018 Sections 14(1)(m), 14(1)(n), 27 and 28 in relation to dams, reservoirs and the transfer of water resources, enter into force for England only (see SI 2017/1078)

Characteristics

Subject

Energy/climate change General policy Land and development Sustainable development Transport Waste

Source

OPSI (Office of Public Sector Information)

Affected Sectors

Cross-sector Oil Water Electricity Gas Waste and Cleaning Construction Transport Rail Transport
ECM

Planning Act 2008

Document Status: In force/Current

Scope: England, Scotland, Wales

Commentary:

27/03/2015 Amending Order (SI 2015/949) published.
10/03/2016 Amending Order (SI 2016/306) published., 16/01/2017 Amending Regulations (SI 2017/16) published, for England and Wales only.
02/11/2017 Amending Regulations (SI 2017/1012) published.
10/11/2017 Commencement Order (No. 3) (
SI 2017/1078) published, for England only., 28/11/2018 Amending Regulations (SI 2018/1232) published.

Compliance:

26/11/2008 Received Royal Assent, 26/11/2008 Provisions of Parts 1 to 9 (except Section 194(2) to (5) and paragraph 7 of Schedule 7) come into force (see Section 241), 26/11/2008 Part 11, except Sections 206, 211(7), 224 and 225 come into force (see Section 241), 26/11/2008 Part 12, except Section 238, comes into force (see Section 241), 26/01/2009 Sections 194(2) to (5), 201, 202, 203 and 225 (together with related entries in Schedule 13), and paragraph 7 of Schedule 7, come into force (see Section 241)
01/03/2010 Certain Sections including Sections 15 to 20 and Sections 22 to 26 brought into force by The Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No.4 and Saving) Order 2010 (SI 2010/101)
06/04/2010 Certain provisions brought into force by the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 5 and Saving) Order 2010 (SI 2010/566)
06/04/2011 Sections 14(1)(o) and 29 brought into force by the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 6) Order 2011 (SI 2011/705)
01/10/2011 Sections 14(1)(p), 30 and 153 and Schedule 6 brought into force by the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 7) Order 2011 (SI 2011/2054)
06/04/2012 Sections 192 and Schedule 8 (tree preservation orders), Section 193 (existing tree preservation orders: transitional provisions), and Section 238 and Schedule 13 (repeals relating to trees specified in the Schedule to SI 2012/601) come into force for, 28/11/2014 Section 198 (appeals relating to old mining permissions) comes into force, in relation to Wales, insofar as it is not already in force (see the Planning Act 2008 (Commencement No. 3) (Wales) Order (
01/01/2018 Sections 14(1)(m), 14(1)(n), 27 and 28 in relation to dams, reservoirs and the transfer of water resources, enter into force for England only (see SI 2017/1078)

The government has plans to streamline the planning process for reservoirs – schemes that will hold back at least 30 million cubic metres or provide at least 80 megalitres per day of deployable output – through its national policy statement. A consultation on the draft statement closed in January.

Bevan explained the EA was “midway through” its programme of reforming abstraction licences, sometimes adding new terms and conditions that will reduce overall water usage or only allow it at times when it will not cause harm, he told the conference attendees.

Commenting on James Bevan’s speech, a National Infrastructure Commission spokesperson said: “England faces the very real prospect of drought over the next thirty years, so we welcome the Environment Agency’s call for decisive action now to change our whole approach to water management.

“We’re also pleased Sir James highlighted the need for new reservoirs and water transfers, which are key elements in building a more resilient approach that we have recommended, alongside tackling leakage.”

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