The changing climate means that a flexible and adaptable approach to resource management will be required. After all, no one knows exactly what the future will bring, but one thing is for sure and certain – the world will see water shortages really take hold sooner, rather than later.
Even now, there are numerous countries already experiencing serious issues with water stress and scarcity, and the implications of the situation are huge.
What it means is that drought and dry weather plans will need to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they evolve in line with future events and trends, ensuring that demand doesn’t outstrip supply even in the face of drought and dry weather conditions.
In England and Wales, under the Water Industry Act 1991, water companies have to produce a drought plan every five years, stating how it will maintain secure water supplies and protect the environment in the face of such stressors.
They must make sure that they monitor indicators of water availability, taking action in line with triggers such as rainfall levels, river flows, groundwater levels and reservoir stocks.
Demand management actions for drought periods include reducing leakage, reducing mains pressure, restricting water use (such as through temporary use bans on hosepipes and sprinklers) and launching water efficiency campaigns with customers.
Supply management actions during drought are also necessary, with supply actions prioritised that will have the least effect on the environment. This could include, for example, carrying out engineering work to improve supply, desalination, drought permits and drought orders for water abstraction, transferring water in bulk from other suppliers and so on.
Drought plans also have to include an environmental assessment, environmental monitoring plans for each supply management action and details of mitigation measures that the company in question intends to take for each supply management action.
And water companies also have to explain how it will identify when a drought is over or coming to an end and the actions it will take at this point, communicating the information to customers and reviewing its performance both during the drought and after it.
Last year, MPs warned that England is at serious risk of facing water shortages by 2040, with climate change, a growing population and increased urbanisation, coupled with extreme weather events, putting even more pressure on supplies.
Businesses can do their bit to help safeguard these precious resources by having a water audit carried out on site. This will reveal any vulnerable areas across your operations where water-saving measures can be brought in, saving water and helping to save you money at the same time.