Earth and Life Sciences
Climate change and the human-made water cycle: Implications for the UK water sector
Topics: Resources and Pollution, Impacts and adaptation
Type: Briefing paper
Publication date: October 2019
Authors: Charles Zogheib, Nickolaos Voulvoulis
This briefing paper considers the impact of climate change on water resources, and how the UK water sector can plan for the future by implementing a sustainable water cycle.
Climate change is already happening, and the UK’s climate will continue to change as a result of greenhouse gas emissions, with the long-term resilience of its infrastructure at risk.
The water sector cannot adapt to the challenges of climate change in isolation, as policy effects in one sector will have indirect effects in others.
Current demand pressures and reductions in abstraction licences – rights to draw water – are causing supply-demand deficits and this is coupled to the impacts of climate change. If no action is taken, the current high standards of service that is offered at a fair price, and without causing environmental damage, could soon be at risk.
While impact on water flows might not yet be measurable, there is evidence to show that if water companies carry on with ‘business as usual’, we risk a future without enough water for people, business, farmers, wildlife and the environment.
With water as the key medium that links atmospheric temperature rises to changes in human and physical systems, government, water companies and all the players in the wider sector need to play a more proactive role in accelerating the transition to a circular economy, while helping people, politicians and decision makers to understand and prepare for the risks of climate change.
[image: Mogden Sewage Treatment Works in Isleworth (c) Shutterstock/pxl.store]