Posted: Tuesday 7th February 2012

In the UK the concerns for future climate change are centred around the effects it will have on the south-east. However, recently published research has highlighted that future climate change will put considerable stress on the water resources of the city of Birmingham so that, coupled with expected increase in demand, adaptation measures to increase supply and/or reduce demand will be required. With the recent publication of the Water White Paper emphasising the importance of societies’ involvement in securing supplies, CIWEM reaffirms the importance of the proper valuation of water.

The scale of the potential impact of climate change for the UK has already been felt with droughts in June 2010 leading to hose pipe bans affecting 6.5 million customers in the North-East of England. Birmingham receives all its potable water needs from the Elan Valley reservoirs. A recent study published in the Water and Environment Journal demonstrated that the number of very dry years is expected to increase by around 7%.

Climate change will increase frequency of droughts, lower reservoir levels and reduce the reliability of public water supply, unless supplies are increased and/or demand reduced. Increasing the Elan reservoir storage capacity would counteract the anticipated increased hydrological variability, but would be costly, involve long lead times and potentially be constrained by the limits of the aqueduct that transports the water supplies from the Elan valley to Birmingham.

The twin track approach of increasing supply and reducing demand appears to be the best way to maintain supplies while improving resilience because of the anticipated increased demands and limited capacity of current infrastructure.

The Authors say:

“The direct impacts of climate change on domestic water demand are expected to be much less than the effects due to changes in technology and human behaviour and the increasing population of Birmingham.”

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves, OBE, says:

“There is a need for water companies to take a more innovative approach to managing water, however social behavioural change should be a priority in the mission to stabilise water supplies and harbour a resilient approach for the future. Central to this should be the proper valuation of our water and in order to do this we need to measure water use accurately and then utilise tariffs that discourage profligacy and support those who generally struggle to afford their water.”

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