Pollution is the greatest concern to UK’s water supply above drought and flooding, new research suggests

Posted: Tuesday 16th June 2020

WSP research shows that three-quarters of UK public are the most concerned about the effect of pollution on water supply.

Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE The UK public is most concerned about pollution as a threat to the UK’s water supply, new research from engineering professional services consultancy WSP shows today.

A new survey of 1,000 UK consumers showed three-quarters (79%) of respondents are concerned about pollution threatening the UK’s water supply, followed by flooding (70%) and droughts (49%).

Concern about flooding and drought shows increased public awareness of the effect of climate change on the UK’s water supply, which experts at WSP say could be mitigated by effective storage infrastructure.

Mike Woolgar, Strategic Growth Director of Water at WSP, says: “We can see that UK consumers are becoming more aware of flooding risks with the events earlier in the year but as we continue these current warmer temperatures, there may be a shift in concern towards drought and potentially restrictions on use in some areas of the country.

“Water storage in the right places, whether to reduce flooding or ensure adequate water supplies during dry periods, could help the broader water sector to address these challenges. Clever use of more dispersed storage, for example, could help to reduce the amount of water needed in the energy intensive process of moving supply from place to place, and thus addressing the UK’s net zero challenge.”

Over a third of respondents (34%) said they would pay 10% more on their water bill for better tap water, the survey showed, highlighting the challenge faced by the water industry to assure the public that the UK has some of the highest quality tap water in the world.

When asked by how much they would be willing to increase their water bill to secure the UK’s water supply against specific threats, a third (33%) of respondents said they would pay above 10% to protect against pollution.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office said that England could face droughts within 20 years unless significant action is taken to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis on water availability. They also suggested that 4bn litres of additional water supply would be needed each day by 2050 to counter the growing risk of imbalance between reliable supplies and growing demand.

Mark Carlisle, Director of Water at WSP, says:“From our research, we can see that there is a challenge from the industry to create a behavioural change by heightening the awareness of climate change on supply availability and water quality as a component of the UK’s transition to a net zero society, aiding a reduction in the energy demands associated with the treatment and transfer of water.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to the UK’s water and wastewater system and our infrastructure needs to be resilient to future shocks.”

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April 2021

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