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UK WATER SUSTAINABILITY -  FUTURE PROBLEMS

FUTURE: PROBLEMS

PROBLEM 1: FUTURE DEVELOPMENT

The driest area of the UK, the Southeast is also ear marked for the biggest future development.

water_use_UK

Courtesy of www.eerf.org.uk/Q 

As new developments are built, population in the area will rise, resulting in a smaller “market share” of water resource for agriculture.

Development also creates large quantities of impermeable tarmac and concrete, which increases the amount of run-off in to water courses; this gives urban influenced fluvial systems “flashy” characteristics, whilst leading to less rain fall being stored as ground water.

PROBLEM 2: CLIMATE CHANGE

 

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UKCP09U Mean Precipitation

Viewing DEFRA’s predictions for UK climate change it would appear that, we will be having more rain. However, it should be borne in mind that these higher rain falls will be matched with higher temperatures.

This may result in

 

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UKCP09U Mean Temperature

PROBLEM 3: INCREASING RELIANCE ON IMPORTS

The reason that the UK’s agricultural water usage can remain so low at 2% is that we import such high percentages of our food. Even apples that will grow readily in the UK are only 24%R home grown. And with sugar snap peas from Kenya, and dates from Israel that is one of the better examples. In short we are robbing other countries of their water.

Imported food also has the double negative of a larger (generally) carbon foot print, air freight for perishable food, is becoming ever more popular, with very high CO2 emissions.

Failure to manage the UK’s water resources with regards to food production will lead to greater reliance on sea and air freighted food, and increased entrenchment in a negative feedback loop.

PROBLEM 4: POPULATION GROWTH

Britain can expect to have a 25% population increase by 2060S , this will give rise to increased competition for water resources, leaving less for food production.

FUTURE: SOLUTIONS / SUGESTIONS

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 1: TRANSFER SCHEMES (COUNTER TO WRONG PLACE)

Case Study: Ely Ouse Transfer

Essex and Suffolk Water are reliant on water transferred from Norfolk via the Ely Ouse to Essex Transfer Scheme (EOETS). Norfolk is a one of the most intensively farmed counties in the UK, yet due to this transfer scheme it supplies up to 35% of Essex and Suffolk’s Water.

The EOETS was a massive project completed in 1971, a project like this now would take decades to get off the ground, so I fear we are very much entrenched in the system we have inherited, from an age where “things got done”.  The EA has a very good knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the UK water balance. Its 182 page Water resources planning guideline has very detailed appraisals of water resources distribution within the UK.

By viewing the rainfall distribution map, you might conclude that a West to East Transfer scheme might solve many of the problems that the dry south east is facing.

Case Study: Kielder Water Transfer

On 26 April 1996 Yorkshire Water Services (YWS), in response to the water shortage in Yorkshire, announced its decision to develop a £50 million water transfer scheme from the River Tees to the River Ouse.”T

In view of increasing temperatures we might take example from the Romans who were pioneers in engineering, and quickly saw that the losses in evaporation from the surface transfer of water can be abated via the use of underground transfer, the “chain of wells” technique might nowadays be replaced with a scheme such as the southern conveyor in Cyprus, which very large volume of water being transported in pipes rather than open water courses.

Policy Changes: 

  1. Lessen the influence of public consultation on large infrastructure projects.
  2. Form a government body to push through large Infrastructure projects. (Just been done!)
  3. Nationalise the Water Companies or create a Unifying Body so as to create the means to manage, fund and push forward large scale multi region projects.

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 2: INCREASE LOCALISED STORAGE (COUNTER TO WRONG TIME)

 In order to safe guard storage from the effects of rising temperatures we should look to hotter countries for inspiration:

 

 

Legislation in the UK should reflect that small scale localised storage should be encouraged. Farm reservoirs are subject to ever tightening control, inspection and design under the Reservoirs Act.

 

If there is the space and resources available for a viable storage system to be built on a farm then efforts should be made to encourage it development. This could be achieved by subsiding construction / design costs or by increasing license charges to make such storage economical viable. Storing the winter glut closer to the point of use is, energy therefore carbon efficient. It encourages the efficient use of water, and lessens abstractions from water courses and groundwater.

Policy Changes 

  1. Groundwater Offsetting: If a farmer takes water out of the ground he must take measures to see that some goes back in, perhaps catching run off in infiltration ponds. (Only applicable in areas where aquifers are unconfined)
  2. Make reservoirs on farms as easy to build as possible. Small scale holding ponds should not require planning, licenses or be constricted in use by legislation.

 

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 3: REUSE OF WATER

We already re use tin cans so why nor reuse waste water, instead of the outfall of a sewage treatment plant going back in to a river (where it maintains flows undoubtedly) why not store the water in a reservoir for use in dry periods. This principal could be applied to small scale, for individual industrial sources or residential.

This has been tried with limited success in Cyprus where treated sewage effluent is stored in dams to be used for irrigation water.

Policy Changes:

 

  1. Water companies have to meet a percentage of their supply to agriculture from grey water sources, costs for additional infrastructure.

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 4: LOW CARBON ECONOMY

As with the rest of the world the UK must do its bit to lower carbon emissions. More companies should follow Environmental Management Systems such as ISO14001 and BS855, manufactured products should be labelled with embodied carbon and water labels as outlined in free standards such as PAS 2050. 

At present the UK (alongside Japan) has the highest % of registered businesses and growth rates for IS014001 certification.V  These EMS aim for more efficient water use, leaving a larger share for agriculture. Many bodies such as the WWF comment on 14001’s lack of effectiveness , but it demonstrates intent if nothing else. 

Policy Changes:

 

  1. Mandatory EMS for farms / food based industry over a certain annual turnover.
  2. Introduction of mandatory water resource management plans for  farms / food based industry over a certain annual turnover.

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 5: SUSTAINABILITY

Much could be done to decentralise food production in the UK, and thereby decrease the intensity of water demand in certain areas. Projects such as Land Share are at present a bit twee but they do bring to light the options that are available to people. Land share now have in excess of 44,000 people registered.

Small scale food production n whether instigated via TV cooks, or other means should be encouraged. Planning policy on a regional level at present seems to favour infill of open space in urban areas, and so this option is becoming ever less plausible. Should new planning application be made to include to rainwater harvesting, grey water reuse?

Policy Changes:

 

  1. Incentivise the efficient use of water in agriculture: By education and taxation push farmers in to investment in efficient equipment.
  2. Alter planning policy so its takes water efficiency as seriously as it takes energy efficiency.

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 6: POPULATION CONTROL

Population control will be VERY unpopular.

Policy Change:

  1. 2 children per couple policy, to halt population growth.
  2. Raise age of legal consent.

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 7: IMPORTED WATER TAXES 

Importing virtual water from arid counties only serves to imbalance the global distribution of water still further. Although it does the UK itself no harm, we are acting irresponsibly. 

Policy Change:

 

  1. Heavy Import Tax on Air Freight.
  2. Tax on amount of virtual water in a product being imported.
  3. Water offset projects in developing countries, paid for by consumer enviro tax.
  4. Make it illegal to eat / sell imported food one day a week!

SOLUTION / SUGESTIONS 8: LOWER ENVIRONMNETAL STANDARDS

Policy Changes:

 

  1. Lower SMF

CONCLUSIONS

Water is a vital component of food production. Food production uses a lot of water. Meat in particular is very water heavy in its production. The UK and the World use very different percentages of their water for food production, but we share a lot of the same problems in terms of distribution and timing of rainfall.

In terms of managing resources you would expect the UK to be leaps and bounds ahead of say Ghana, but just as it is easy to manage our carbon emissions, because so much of our carbon is “exported” to China and India, we could say the same of the water in the food we eat.

It would seem that the two main problems in general are climate change and population growth, both of which seem like unstoppable tides. A cave man lived a sustainable life style. We (the human race) are so far from that now. Sustainability is a nice concept but it will require a complete upheaval of every person’s life style. No cars, no imported food, no holidays . . . a Dictatorship might be able to impose these changes, in the western world we are used to our freedom of choice and a regression of this, would prove fatal to any political party that suggested policies based upon it. 

References:

P-  Lessons from Kitase/Gyankama - WaterAid Ghana Briefing Paper 2005 (No 1)

Q - East of England Rural Forum - Water Resources (www.eerf.org.uk/) (31/12/09)

U - UKCP09 - DEFRA (http://ukclimateprojections.defra.gov.uk/)

R -  http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/food-miles-the-true-cost-of-putting-imported-food-on-your-plate-451139.html (02/01/10)

S -  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/27/population.eu (02/01/10)

T -  http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/kielder_transfer_scheme.html (02/01/10)

V - http://www.greenconsumerguide.com/