Climate change: a challenge we cannot afford to ignore

Not a day seems to pass at the moment without some reference to climate change in the media – but how often do you read beyond the headlines? For many of us it might seem like a dull subject for boffins to tussle with, while the rest of us get on with our daily lives. A problem for tomorrow’s world which does not affect us – right?

In fact, climate change is already having an impact in the UK. And that means it’s not something any of us can afford to ignore.

Our country has always had weather that is varied and changeable but reasonably temperate. It has often shielded us from the most extreme droughts, storms and floods that batter other parts of the world.

But we can no longer take that for granted.

Records now show that globally 16 of the warmest 17 years have occurred since 2000. In the past year alone we’ve been forced to seek shelter from the Beast from the East, which sent the mercury plummeting, before sweating our way through a summer of record-breaking temperatures. In many ways 2018 has given us a glimpse of what the future might hold for us.

The increased threat of drought, heavy storms and more extreme temperatures have implications for every part of our lives and the natural environment that we all enjoy.

Water companies find themselves in the eye of the storm when it comes to adapting to climate change. Their essential services rely directly on rainfall levels to sustain rivers and top up the reservoirs and underground aquifers that help to keep our taps running.

Over the hot summer most water companies had to work flat out to match their customers’ demand for water – a challenge that will only increase as our population continues to grow. Every drop we consume has an impact on our environment and wildlife – taking more and more out of our rivers to quench our thirst for water is not an option. But neither is doing nothing.

If we choose to bury our head in the sand, by 2050 demand could outstrip the amount of water available to us by more than 20 per cent.

That’s why we are pressing water companies to invest more in building new resources to store water, move supplies around and reduce the amount of water lost through leaky pipes. Water companies need to lead by example and also help consumers to understand why they have an important part to play.

It’s only when we’ve seen the bigger picture on climate change that we begin to realise the efforts each of us make to use water wisely really can make a difference.

Karen Gibbs is Senior Policy Manager at the Consumer Council for Water