Water in the 21st century

defra

This roundtable focussed on the social, economic and environmental challenges posed by extremes of water

On 28 February 2013, the Met Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Science Museum brought together key stakeholders for a discussion to get key influencers talking about shared issues. The discussion opened with a focus on the reality of climate change and its possible impacts.

Key issues and outcomes

Three main topics were explored:

  • Have the past lessons of drought and flooding taught us enough to manage extreme changes in rainfall?
  • What, if any are the barriers that affect our plans for managing current rainfall patterns - in both the public and private sectors?
  • In terms of future progress for water resilience, does water and policy legislation address the issues effectively? Will legislation provide appropriate outcomes for the economic, environmental and social needs of the country?

Have the past lessons of drought and flooding taught us enough to manage extreme changes in rainfall?

With the severe extremes of flooding and drought in the UK over the past five years, the group recognised there are many improvements to be made. It was recommended that there should be a consultation with Ofwat (The Water Services Regulation Authority) on its forthcoming price review to take account of the need for water resilience as part of the overall water package. It was also suggested that there should be increased collaboration between the water industry, research bodies and academic institutions to further the understanding of water resilience and develop appropriate innovations to meet the challenges it presents.

What, if any are the barriers that affect our plans for managing current rainfall patterns - in both the public and private sectors?

Several key issues and challenges were discussed in terms of responding to and managing extreme rainfall. It was recommended that greater communication between organisations and agencies will help ensure the messages to businesses and the public at large are clear, strong and consistent. Taking the energy sector's lead and signposting domestic appliances and such like, to help inform customers of water consumption, was also recommended. The government estimates sustainable water supply at around 130 litres per person per day. Water use is currently at an average of 150 litres per person in the UK, so work is needed to reduce demand.

In terms of future progress for water resilience, does water and policy legislation address the issues effectively? Will legislation provide appropriate outcomes for the economic, environmental and social needs of the country?

Due to the complexities surrounding water management, legislation can only do so much. It was recommended that we learn from innovations in demand management that are in place overseas, in Australia for example. It was also deemed important to provide incentives to the water industry to 'do the right thing' - to drive innovation, sustainability and efficient use of water resources and facilitate small-scale water storage assets, particularly for the agricultural sector.

More information

Download a detailed summary of the roundtable here:

Water in the 21st Century Water in the 21st Century (PDF, 684 kB)

Water in the 21st Century - Defra
Attendees of the "Water in the 21st Century - Our Environment, Our Future" event give their reactions directly following the roundtable.

Last updated: 16 May 2013

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