Water efficiency must improve, claims Environment Agency report

A new report from the government body in charge of England’s environment has urged industry and individuals to improve water efficiency or face shortages.

water efficiency

(Credit: Richard Slessor via CC)

According to the Environment Agency, current levels of water abstraction are unsustainable in more than a quarter of groundwaters and one-fifth of rivers. In its report, The State of the Environment: Water Resources, the organisation said this is resulting in reduced flows which could damage local ecology and wildlife. Unless action is taken, parts of England could face significant water shortages by 2050, with the south east particularly exposed.

“We need to change our attitudes to water use,” said Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency. “It is the most fundamental thing needed to ensure a healthy environment but we are taking too much of it and have to work together to manage this precious resource.”

“Industry must innovate and change behaviours in order to reduce demand and cut down on wastage – and we all have a duty to use water more wisely at home.”

Wastage from leaking water pipes is estimated to be three billion litres per day, putting undue pressure on the country’s water resources. Of that which is taken from freshwater sources, 55 per cent is abstracted by water companies for public supply, while 36 per cent is used for electricity supply and other industries.

The report also highlights unsustainable levels of individual water use, estimated at around 140 litres per day. Setting a lower target in conjunction with the government, as well as improving the supply infrastructure, are key recommendations of the report.

“With demand on the rise, water companies must invest more in infrastructure to address leakage instead of relying on abstraction and the natural environment to make up this shortfall,” said Howard Boyd.

Last year the government announced a plan for abstraction reform which will review existing licences and introduce more controls to protect water resources. The Environment Agency has started work in four priority catchments to test out new licensing approaches to help meet local demand and improve water efficiency.