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  • by Karma Loveday

Climate Change Committee judges water infrastructure as at risk from flood and cascading failures

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has called for more action to protect water infrastructure from river, groundwater and surface water flooding, as well as from cascading failures from climate impacts on other sectors including energy and ICT.

Those were the highest priority actions in the CCC’s Adapation Committee’s water sector report, one of a suite of sector specific packages of advice to form part of its third UK Climate Change Risk Assessment.

The committee also said further investigation was needed on risks to water infrastructure from coastal flooding and erosion, and risks to health from poor water quality and supply interruptions resulting from both more frequent intense dry periods and more frequent flooding.

The Risk Assessment provides the Adaptation Committee’s statutory advice to governments on priorities for the 2023 national adaptation plans and wider action. The report found: "Alarmingly, this new evidence shows that the gap between the level of risk we face and the level of adaptation underway has widened. Adaptation action has failed to keep pace with the worsening reality of climate risk. The UK has the capacity and the resources to respond effectively to these risks, but it has not yet done so. Acting now will be cheaper than waiting to deal with the consequences. Government must lead that action.”

Sixty-one risks and opportunities are reported on, with eight risk areas identified as requiring the most urgent attention in the next two years. The Committee also recommended ten principles for good adaptation planning that should form the basis for the next round of national adaptation plans. These are intended to bring adaptation into mainstream consideration by Government and business.

Responding, Sam Larsen, Water UK director of carbon and programmes, said: “Today’s Assessment report by the Climate Change Committee shows how vital it is for the water industry, regulators, and customers to work together on tackling and mitigating the impacts of the climate emergency…The water industry is making good progress in adapting to climate change; however, more work still needs to be done in addressing the long-term challenges. Adapting our infrastructure is as important as reducing our emissions as climate change impacts become more severe, and therefore, we are looking to the Environment Bill and Ofwat’s 2024 Price Review to help develop the right regulatory environment to empower water companies to deliver a carbon-neutral, nature-based future that is critical to protecting the environment, people and communities we serve.”


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