In Brief

England ‘to run short of water within 25 years’

Environment Agency says the country faces ‘the jaws of death’

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England is facing the ‘‘jaws of death” as it is set to run short of water within 25 years, warns the chief executive of the Environment Agency.

Sir James Bevan told The Guardian that England is fast approaching the point where water demand from the country’s rising population overtakes the dwindling supply resulting from climate change.

He said urgent action must be taken to cut people’s water use by a third and leakage from water company pipes by 50%. Major new reservoirs must be created, he argued, along with more desalination plants and transfers of water across the country.

“We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea,” he said.

The UK’s population is forecast to rise from 67m to 75m in 2050, increasing the demand for water. Bevan says about a third of water is lost to leaks or wastage. He believes the average person’s daily water use of 140 litres could be slashed to 100 litres in 20 years by more efficient use.

Turning to the obstacles on building new mega-reservoirs, he pointed out that the UK has not created one “for decades”, because “clearing all the planning and legal hurdles necessary is so difficult and local opposition so fierce”. 

Referring to government plans to streamline the planning process, he said they are “controversial”, but “the right thing to do”.

Michael Roberts, of Water UK, which represents the water companies, said: “As well as planning increasing investment, water companies have publicly committed to cut leakage by 50% by 2050.” However, some water firms have incurred huge fines in the past for failing to meet targets.

Bevan is due to make a speech later today at the Waterwise conference in London.

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