At Skewb our teams have been analysing the potential impacts of the recent consultations from government and water companies to determine what the future might look like for the next Asset Management Period and beyond.
Poppy Durkan looks at Regional Planning.
I’m Poppy, and I joined Skewb (and the water industry!) in October 2020. I come from a background in sustainability and am currently studying alongside full-time work for a Masters in Sustainability and Business Leadership at the University of Leeds. I’m really passionate about how climate change impacts water availability, and the Regional Water Resources Management Plans published recently by UK water companies show just how significant this impact will be in the coming years.
By 2050, England and Wales are facing a shortfall of over 4 billion litres of water a day due to increased temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, population growth, and the need to leave more water in the environment. This seems like an enormous challenge, however I was struck by the cooperation we are now seeing between water companies in facing these future deficits. Intercompany and interregional initiatives are clearly key to meeting customer demands of the future, achieving Net Zero, and operating more sustainability.
What are Regional Water Resources Management Plans?
The Regional WRMPs (rWRMP) cover the planning period from 2025 until up to 2085 and describe long term planning schemes and multi-company collaboration. Regional planning gives water companies the opportunity to work together to meet future needs, and better serve customers through a unified approach. Significant infrastructure investment is required across the UK in the coming years to meet demand, which takes a number of years to plan and develop.
Draft regional plans have been produced following the publication of the Environment Agency’s National Framework for Water Resources. The regional plans consolidate the individual WRMPs of member companies, with particular focus on cross-boundary transfers or infrastructure plans. The aim of the rWRMP is to increase resilience of the region’s water supply at the best value to the customer. The 5 regional groups include:
· Water Resources North (WReN)
· Water Resources West (WRW)
· Water Resources East (WRE)
· Water Resources South East (WRSE)
· West Country Water Resources Group (WCWRG)
The draft plans were published between November and December 2022, with the exception of WCWRG, which was published in January 2023. Consultation of the draft plans will run until the end of February 2023 (and April 2023 for WCWR), with the publication of final regional plans expected in November 2023 following the publication of individual companies WRMPs. I read the (several hundred) pages of documents to understand the impact of the regional similarities and variations.
What are the draft Regional WRMPs saying?
All regions are forecasted to face a deficit in available water by 2050. The water scarce South East is the worst hit region, with a predicted deficit of 2,250MLD by 2050 and 2,670MLD by 2075. Other areas of the UK are facing a less significant shortage. The least affected area, the West Country, is still forecasting a 180 MLD deficit.
Some regions such as Water Resources North are forecasting an overall deficit however within the region the picture is more varied, with Yorkshire Water accounting for 299MLD of the total 302MLD deficit. The collaborative nature of the regional WRMP process has enabled the planning of a key regional transfer between Northumbrian and Yorkshire Water via the Tyne Tees Transfer system to address this regional variance, with a transfer capacity of 140MLD by 2050.
In addition to within region planning, both interregional and large infrastructure schemes have been considered. The largest of these interregional schemes addresses the severe water shortage in the South East of England, with two key water transfers planned between WRW and WRSE. The Grand Union Canal will supply 50MLD by 2031 and up to 100MLD by 2040, and the Severn Thames Transfer will supply 35MLD by 2050 and 135MLD by 2060. Other significant infrastructure projects include 4 new reservoirs and 4 new desalination plants in WRE, and 5 new reservoirs and 6 desalination plants planned in WRSE by 2075, including the new Hampshire Reservoir which will be completed by 2035.
The regional plans have also highlighted the need for increased leakage and demand management reduction activity. Significant savings are required with all plans calling out the essential government set target of a 50% reduction in leakage, and Per Capita Consumption levels of 110 l/person/d. Increased activity over AMP8 and beyond is vital to achieving these stretching targets given the 2021/22 sector results: -6.6% leakage reduction and a national PCC average of 145.6 l/person/d¹.
Why is a shortfall in demand expected?
There are three main causes of the forecasted water deficit by 2050: climate change & environmental destination, population growth, and the increasing levels of non-public water supply (non-PWS) sector demand such as in the agriculture and energy sector.
Climate change impacts may be significant with the UK seeing more frequent heatwaves and extended dry and drought periods. Hot and dry summers such as those seen in 2018 and 2022 are expected to occur more frequently. All regional plans are therefore increasing their resiliency from a 1 in 200-year drought event to a 1 in 500-year drought event. More extreme weather events, coupled with rising global temperatures will mean there is less water available in the environment for abstraction. Additionally, the government has set the water industry stretching targets to reduce the volume of water abstracted from the environment, which is referred to as environmental destination. As shown in Table 2 below in some regions this is a significant amount, resulting in 621MLD less water available for WRW.
Population growth and new housing developments are another key cause of increased water demand. Whilst predictions of population increases vary, there are significant forecasts of growth (and therefore demand), especially in the South of England.
Lastly, an increase in non-PWS demand is expected in the coming years, most notably from the UK’s low carbon energy generation strategy. Hydrogen projects are key to meeting the UK’s Net Zero target of 2050, however these projects have a significant impact on water consumption. In already water stressed areas it is vital that hydrogen projects are carefully planned and framed within the larger regional water strategy to ensure household water demands are met.
Poppy Durkan is a Senior Business Consultant in the Demand Management team at Skewb focused on water efficiency and sustainability initiatives. To speak to her about this topic in more detail, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.