Research by the Consumer Council for Water (CCW) shows that 41% of people living in parts of England where water resources are under the most pressure think that water is plentiful where they live.
That’s despite more regions than ever before being classed as seriously water stressed by the Environment Agency, including the South East, East Anglia and parts of the Midlands.
CCW surveyed 1,870 customers in England and Wales to gauge how aware people were of the pressure on water supplies where they live. It also explored what customers think their water company should be doing to promote water efficiency.
Ahead of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, CCW is calling for water companies to do more to help customers value water and help them to use it wisely.
“One of the biggest challenges of our time is making sure that there is enough water for people and for the environment – now and in the future,” said Dr Mike Keil, Director of Policy, Research and Campaigns at CCW.
“Population growth, climate change and our own water use mean that the balance of water resources is shifting to a point where unless we take urgent action the demand for water will outstrip available supplies.”
Environment Agency Chair Emma Howard Boyd said: “If we continue with the status quo, we could have up to 15 percent less water available by 2050, which is why in July of this year the Environment Agency classified seven new regions as seriously water stressed bringing the total in England to 13.
“It is critical that we adapt and increase our resilience to meet the demands of the public, industry and agriculture while also protecting human health and the environment. Tackling leakage, developing new supplies through reservoirs, and looking at water reuse schemes are a key part of this.
“But everyone can play a role in saving and using water wisely to ease the pressure on this finite resource.”
London and the South East have been classed as seriously water stressed since 2013. This year the Environment Agency added more regions in England to the list of areas determined to be seriously water stressed, including East Anglia and parts of the Midlands.
“The good news from our research is that over 80 per cent of customers said they were willing to help save water, and it is brilliant that COP26 is helping to bring attention to these issues – but we must not let that momentum drop,” said Dr Keil.
“The water sector must help people make that link between their water use and protecting the wider environment that depends on it too. There are many good regional initiatives, but what we need to see is a stronger effort from the industry as a whole to take a joint, consistent and sustained approach to raising awareness across England and Wales.
“We’ve been holding conversations with professionals in the sector about how companies can better help their customers understand the ways in which their water use impacts on the environment, and we’ll continue to do so to ensure the message is being heard.”
CCW’s research found that more than half of customers would like a free visit to check their home and supply pipe for leaks (54%) and 61% would welcome an offer of free or discounted water-saving devices, something that many companies already offer.
CCW’s independent review of water affordability has already set out recommendations for companies to help people reduce their water bills by saving water, such as supporting vulnerable lower-income households to purchase water efficient white goods.
“As climate change brings more extreme weather, it is critical that the water sector and customers adapt if we are to ensure current and future generations have access to water and sewerage services that are affordable and that leave enough water in the environment to allow our natural habitats to thrive. Our research reveals that more work is needed to inform and empower people to play their part,” said Dr Keil.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Read our research here: WaterVoice Views of current customers on water resources
Further information on the Environment Agency’s 2021 classification of seriously water stressed areas
The Environment Agency set out new water saving measures to safeguard water supplies on 1 July
The Environment Agency warns that adaptation is just as vital as mitigation: Adapt or die, says Environment Agency