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article imageEnvironment Agency — UK could run out of fresh water in 25 years

By Karen Graham     Mar 23, 2019 in World
London - England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
The chief executive of the U.K. Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, in a speech at the Waterwise conference in London on Tuesday, warned that climate change and rapid population growth could leave England with a severe fresh water shortage in the next 25 years.
In explaining the twin pressures facing England, Bevan referred to the point at which demand would outstrip supply as the "jaws of death," NBC News reported. "We won't have long-term water security unless all of us change our behavior," he added.
The UK's population is expected to grow from 67 to 75 million by 2050, and this will put a significant strain on the water supply, said Bevan, adding that an individuals water use could be cut from 140 to 100 liters (32 to 26 gallons) in the next 20 years. The country relies on fresh water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater.
Walkers take photographs of stormy seas by the lighthouse in New Brighton  northwest England  as Sto...
Walkers take photographs of stormy seas by the lighthouse in New Brighton, northwest England, as Storm Eleanor swept over the country
But climate change is already making some of these sources less reliable. Additionally, the changing climate is bringing increased winter rainfall while summers are becoming drier. This is posing a risk for both floods and drought, according to the agency's study done in 2018.
In 2017, over one-fourth of groundwater sources and 18 percent of surface water sources exceeded sustainable levels. Climate change and a growing population are not the only two factors involved. Old infrastructure - leaking pipes - are another problem.
"Over 3,000 million liters per day are lost through leakage in England. This is equivalent to the amount used in homes by over 20 million people (just under a third of the UK population) on an average day. Current leakage volumes, at around 20 percent of water put into supply, are large enough to have a noticeable effect on the total demand for water," according to the study.
Low water levels at Derwent Water  Cumbria  July 2006
Low water levels at Derwent Water, Cumbria, July 2006
Andy Beecroft (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Not only does more consideration need to go into repairing infrastructure, but the possibility of a water shortage will also affect plants and wildlife, and especially fish. However, Bevan said that while new infrastructure is costly, the price tag of preventative interventions is about half the roughly $54 million incurred as a result of extreme drought.
"There are simple steps we can all take...Get a low flush toilet. Take short showers, not deep baths...Don't water your lawn: it will survive without you. It's not rocket science," he said, reports CNN. "We need to change our attitudes to wasting water so it becomes as socially unacceptable as throwing your plastic bags into the sea. We need to use less water and use it more efficiently."
More about A United Kingdom, Fresh water, UK Environmental Agency, Climate change, Population growth
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