Drought summit needs less talk and more action say WWF

Published on Monday, 20 February 2012 10:34
Posted by Scott Buckler

Ahead of this week’s drought summit, WWF is calling on the Government to turn the talks into actions, by taking a strong leadership role to implement plans to immediately tackle the UK’s serious current drought situation

The crisis meeting, which will be hosted by DEFRA and takes place on Monday 20 February, has been welcomed by WWF, but with climate change posing such a real threat, unless the Government deals with the immediate situation, along with, introducing longer term systemic changes in water management, the problems for the UK are only going to get worse.

Rose Timlett, WWF’s freshwater spokesperson said: “This is a drought we’ve seen coming.  Rivers such as the Kennett 1, which runs through Wiltshire and Berkshire, have been dry since September 2011.  Back then everyone agreed we would be in a serious drought situation if we had another dry winter, but not much has been done about it.”

The Water White Paper which was released in December 2011 by the Government contained some good proposals looking at key issues, such as abstraction licensing.  However, without changes to legislation until 2015/6, these proposals are years away from being implemented.
“Ultimately the Government needs to accelerate these changes and grasp the nettle by fully supporting the case for water metering,” said Rose Timlett.  “We’d also like to see the Government taking a much stronger lead to encourage people at home to do all they can to cut water waste and help wildlife through this drought.”

Water companies also have a massive part to play in raising awareness of how much water people actually use and advising people on how to save water and offering to install free water meters. On average people use 150 litres 2 of water per day – but people can ask their water company to install a meter for free to keep a check on leaks and track their usage. 

WWF also believes that the UK needs to become ‘drought smart’.  With the threat of climate change, droughts will become much more likely, so alongside water metering, abstraction issues need to be dealt with quickly. This could be done by reforming the licenses regime in upcoming water legislation this year.  A drought smart water management system along with a drought savvy population will mean that the UK is much less likely to have to deal with the serious impacts of drought.

WWF has welcomed some of the steps that have been made since last summer’s drought summit.  With clearer Environment Agency information, farmers have been able to make informed choices about what crops they plant – deciding against planting more water intensive crops and seeking alternatives.  Also, some water companies have begun taking tentative steps in talking about drought problems, although much more transparency is needed in this area in order to undertake solutions around water management and drought.


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