It’s time to deal with drought

The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental management (CIWEM) is warning against knee-jerk calls for new large scale water infrastructure, instead emphasising the importance of effective and timely drought management measures. This, coupled with longer-term investment in widespread metering, water efficiency measures and a more sustainable approach to the planning of development in water stressed parts of the country is a far more sensible approach.

CIWEM believes that people should not expect an unlimited supply of water at all times, and that restrictions on water use such as temporary bans are part of a sensible range of measures that water companies should take during times of drought. Water companies should not be criticised for the introduction of temporary water use bans where these are necessary, and there should be no financial penalty for appropriate use of restrictions. At the same time, water companies should take into account the significant cost of such restrictions on some users.

Sensible precautions

It is important that restrictions on water use for non-essential  purposes (appropriate to the level of drought severity) must be considered early in a drought, as a sensible way of reducing the demand for water to reduce the likelihood of more serious impacts on the environment or further restrictions on water supply.

CIWEM is concerned that people throughout the UK are insufficiently aware both of the possible impact of drought and the measures that they can take to help to reduce its effect. Understandably, water suppliers are reluctant to alarm their customers but it is important to understand that there can be a genuine risk to water supply. The recent (2006) experience in south east England demonstrates that when engaged, people do accept that drought is a natural hazard even in the UK. The importance of this understanding will grow as the effects of climate change become more apparent and this may include the incidence of more regular and severe droughts.

Importance of accurate measurement

Longer-term, CIWEM emphasises the importance of accurate measurement of water use by all users, coupled with widespread utilisation of water efficient appliances, less wasteful water use behaviour and a more integrated way of managing water to make better use of it when in surplus through storage at all scales.

CIWEM Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “It is not as though we haven’t been warned. There is a vast body of evidence on climate change and its contribution to water stress is made worse by rising demand.

“The current drought conditions are yet another wake-up call for more urgent action on water efficiency, water metering and retro-fitting of water-saving devices.

“Public attitudes to water have got to change and the government must afford water a much higher priority in the planning of future developments, especially in water stressed areas of the country.

“Let this Olympic year and the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee mark a commitment to investment in innovation in water management and more respect for a precious natural resource.”

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