Documents to download

Water is abstracted (withdrawn) from either freshwater (surface water and groundwater) or tidal water for a range of uses. While water issues exist many parts of the UK, this POSTnote focuses on proposed abstraction reforms in England and Wales. Total freshwater abstraction has declined by 15% since 2000, mainly because of a decline in water usage for electricity generation. However, demand is expected to rise by 9% over the next 30 years, largely because of forecast population growth of 6.6-16 million in England and Wales in areas already classified as ‘water stressed’. In addition, even currently water-rich areas such as the west of the UK are likely to experience supply-demand deficits by 2050 because of climate change.

Key points in this POSTnote include:

  • Freshwater resources in the UK will be affected by climate change and rising demand due to population growth.
  • The existing water abstraction (withdrawal) system is too inflexible to both protect freshwater environments and to meet future business and public water supply needs.
  • Proposed reforms to the abstraction system include measures to better link abstraction to water availability and to introduce quicker and easier trading of abstraction permits.
  • A ‘twin-track’ approach of managing both water supply and demand may help to achieve water supply resilience.
  • Water resource decision-making could benefit from increased stakeholder collaboration and better integration with land management.

Acknowledgements

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

  • Mike Acreman, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology*

  • Iain Brown, York University/SEI*

  • Christina Cook, University of British Columbia*

  • Rob Cunningham, RSPB*

  • Lord Deben, Climate Change Committee

  • Gareth Edwards, University of East Anglia*

  • Dustin Garrick, University of Oxford*

  • Helen Gavin, Atkins*

  • Jim Hall, University of Oxford*

  • Paul Hammett, NFU*

  • Peter Hetherington, Ofwat*

  • Doug Hunt, Atkins

  • Peter Huxtable, British Aggregates

  • Daniel Johns, CCC Adaptation Sub-Committee*

  • Henry Leveson-Gower, Defra*

  • Sarah Mukherjee, Water UK

  • Rose O’Neill, WWF*

  • Ian Pemberton, Ofwat*

  • Alice Piure, Anglian Water*

*Denotes people who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • Food and drink reformulation to reduce fat, sugar and salt

    What does it mean to reformulate food and drinks? How does it support healthier diets and lead to public health benefits? This POSTnote gives an overview of the most recent food and drink reformulation policies in the UK, the evidence on public health benefits and the effectiveness of different policies. It also explores challenges and opportunities for reformulation and describes some of the complementary approaches to improve public health.

    Food and drink reformulation to reduce fat, sugar and salt
  • Approved: Coastal management

    A POSTnote on coastal management will summarise emerging evidence and its implications for coastal flood risk management. It will review how sea level rise and climate change may impact storm patterns and how these impacts can be mitigated to protect coastal areas.

    Approved: Coastal management