The Environment Agency has published its plans for “a shift to strategic regional planning” for England’s water supplies.
In its National Framework for Water Resources, the watchdog said the move was “putting aside company boundaries and considering the needs of the whole region.” The new collaborative approach will apply to public water supply and to other heavy abstractors in industrial and commercial sectors.
Over the coming year, five regional resource planning groups, made up from all of the English water companies and other water users, will assess the challenges in their region along with the opportunities in collaborative working. They will plan co-ordinated, cross-sector measures to meet their challenges including the reduction of the need for rota cuts and standpipes once every 500 years and the development of resources such as reservoirs, water reuse and desalination. They will also look to stepping up transfers of water at “different scales and lengths.”
The agency said the framework will enable a “step change in water resource planing” to address threats to future resilience arising from pollution growth and climate change and to improve the quality of the environment.
The framework was drawn up by Water UK and regional groups along with representatives from major abstractors such as agriculture, power generation and industry; drainage authorities, environmental NGOs, regulators and government.
In her foreword to the framework,chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd said “It’s an opportunity to rethink water and help everyone make decisions on water supplies that can deliver the resilience and environmental enhancement we all want to see.”
In the framework document the agency said without action up to 2050 the daily shortfall in water supplies could exceed 3.4Ml including 1.15Ml for resilience. more than 1Ml to serve the growth in population and over 1.1Ml to address sustainability and climate change issues.