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19 December 23

New report reveals the 8-policies needed to protect the UK's water supply

  • The UK is facing a shortfall of 200 million litres of water– equivalent to one billion cups of tea - in 2038, just 15 years away.
  • A new report from Demos, commissioned by Affinity Water, calls for the Government to adopt new policy changes to safeguard the UK’s water supply.

New analysis suggests that the UK’s water demand is set to outstrip supply, leaving the Great British cup of tea at risk if the taps stop flowing. The nation’s supply of water is set to be tested, with extreme weather events to become more frequent, and as the population continues to grow, the precious and finite supply of water is under threat.

With a shortfall of 200 million litres of water a projected reality within 15 years, Demos, Britain’s leading cross-party think-tank, has developed a report, supported by Affinity Water, outlining the policy recommendations and collective action needed.

The report investigates the factors preventing people from using less water and what is needed to ensure a resilient supply in the near and long term. Leading experts were brought together from across government, policy makers, academia, home builders, climate experts, and the water industry, to consider how to fix the looming national water crisis which will keep the taps flowing.

Keith Haslett, CEO, Affinity Water, comments:

“As the UK’s largest water-only company, Affinity Water, and the wider water industry have a responsibility to protect the UK’s water supply and help customers reduce their water consumption.”

“We are acutely aware of the challenge here and we are working to improve the resilience of our network, ensuring we do our part to save water. In 2022/23, we beat our 14% leak reduction target, achieving 15.8% and are progressing well towards our 2025 goal to reduce leaks by 20%. However, we are not stopping there and aim to reduce leakage by 50% by 2050.”

“We are continuing with our efforts to reduce demand through investments in technology, and the exploration and delivery of successful demand management and customer behaviour change programmes. But to achieve even better results, we believe there is a need for a more collaborative approach involving government, regulators, and the industry, ensuring we tackle this issue from all sides.”

“The public are already playing a key role in solving this crisis. To this end, Affinity Water has been investing in the award-winning behaviour change programme, Save Our Streams, for three years. Nearly 300,000 customers have joined the campaign since it was launched in 2021, and last year, households in the Affinity Water region collectively saved millions of litres of water every day following the communications encouraging them to reduce their water use at home.”

Collective action to drive change.

Now, Affinity Water is calling on political parties to include the policy recommendations in their upcoming election manifestos to help to prevent water shortages in the UK. Affinity Water is also asking people to act now by signing up to a petition to make political parties sit up and take note ahead of the next general election, before.

Consultation with government, policy makers, academia, home builders, climate experts, and the water industry, has led to the development of 8 policy recommendations that will act as a foundation for tackling water resilience in the UK:

  1. Resurrect the post of Minister for Water as a formal political position.
  2. Create a National Water Council, which brings together all relevant parties.
  3. Better training for plumbers and installers to reduce leaks and ensure that water efficient products achieve maximum efficiency.
  4. Compulsory water meters for all households including the removal of pre-installation inspections.
  5. Create a rapid “Greywater Review” to identify the feasibility of using greywater for businesses and recreational usage.
  6. More ambitious targets for new homes for water efficiency aiming for 100 litres per person per day in water-stressed areas, and 110 litres in all other areas.
  7. An ‘All-In-One’ approach to retrofitting homes so that water efficiency is included alongside energy efficiency.
  8. Explore the use of rising block tariffs, providing a range of tariffs which determine the price consumers pay based on usage.

While the UK is deemed to be a nation that sees a lot of rain, research conducted by Demos and Affinity Water found there is public concern towards the impact climate change will have on the UK’s water supply with one in three people being concerned that climate change will lead to an increase in droughts and water shortages in the next 5 years. WRSE reports confirmed that whilst February 2020 was the wettest on record, July 2022 was the driest for almost 70 years. The report stresses that this variability makes it more challenging to develop long-term plans as to the nation’s water supply.

However, currently the public believe that their own water usage has little impact on the environment. Yet, in 2021, the government set an aim of reducing personal water use to110 litres per person, per day by 2050. While simple solutions - like fixing a toilet leak which can save 400 litres of water per day or shortening a shower by two minutes which can save up to 30 litres - can help, this challenge requires national level action led by the Government.

Keith Haslett, CEO, Affinity Water, continued:

“At Affinity Water, while pleased with our progress, we recognise the industry must do more to ensure long-term sustainable supplies of water. This is why we have been collaborating across the industry on water resource plans at a regional level to put forward proposals on new sources of water such as water transfers and new reservoirs. However, this is just one aspect of our long-term plans and must work in tandem with reducing leakage and a societal wide push to reduce demand for water to ensure a more sustainable supply of water for the future.”

Andrew O'Brien, Director of Policy and Impact, Demos said:

“Our fundamental needs in life are food, shelter, and water. So, the public rightly expects that we have a plan to keep our taps flowing. The good news is that everyone is waking up to the need for urgent action to tackle this issue, but there is still a lot to do. We need a truly national effort to ensure that we meet future demand. This will require the government, water industry, business and citizens working together towards a common goal - making the UK as water efficient as possible.”

The full report findings and policy proposals can be found, here.

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