Coast News

Near Drought Conditions Mean Time For Action Say Engineers

15th June, 2011
The Institution of Civil Engineers South West (ICE) are calling on the government to take long-term action to prevent future water shortages threatening to give the region drought status alongside parts of the South East, the Midlands and Wales.

Defra has said that parts of the South West are in a ?near-drought? state.

ICE says Government needs to speed up the introduction of smart meters and other demand reduction measures as well as encourage long-term investment in building resilience for water infrastructure to ensure it is able to cope with the impacts of climate change in the future. The leading engineering body says it hopes to see this addressed in the ongoing Ofwat review.

Trish Johnson, Regional Director if ICE South West said: ?The regulatory regime for the water industry has focused too much on short term costs over long-term planning.

?We need to see a programme of planned maintenance work throughout our aging infrastructure, a reduction in the volume of water treated at wastewater works and basic upkeep such as repairing leaky pipes.

?Climate change is expected to impact on rainfall, groundwater yields and reduce summer river flow. We must begin planning for this now.?

ICE has previously suggested regional transfers could address temporary water shortages in areas connected by an established river network, but says this can only ever be an immediate short term solution due to cost and practicality. It says long-term regulatory change and demand reduction must be the focus if the UK is to protect this valuable resource in years to come.

Trish continued: ?Regional transfer might provide a short term solution for farmers and growers where access to a consistent water supply is essential for food production. However it is not a quick fix or long term strategy.?

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Director General Tom Foulkes said: ?The droughts are a timely reminder that we need to urgently reduce demand for water so that we don?t find ourselves increasingly facing shortages in the future. The regulatory framework and way we charge for water must change to drive more efficient behaviour and encourage industry to build more resilience into its infrastructure. We are hopeful this will be addressed by the ongoing Ofwat review.?