Fostering a Climate of Change
For an organization founded on the belief that water is an undervalued natural resource in the UK, the current national preoccupation with ushering rainwater out to sea as quickly as possible is immensely frustrating, not only to the UKRMA, but also to those charged with ensuring continuity of water supplies.
Thames Water, for example, watch millions of metric tons of valuable water flow through their parish during every wet season, but are barred by national policies from storing sufficient to be certain of meeting demand during drier spells; the nationally preferred solution, apparently, is to invest in desalination plants instead.
Any current issues there may be with continuity and adequacy of water supplies, already under stress in the relatively dry and densely populated south-east of England, are predicted to be compounded in coming years by the twin impact of population growth and changing rainfall patterns. According to the latest report of the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), future potential droughts pose a greater threat to the UK than future potential floods.
The national focus solely on the flood side of the rainwater management equation is therefore deeply flawed, albeit very understandable at the political level given the human misery, commercial impact, and environmental damage caused by floods; these occur with sufficient regularity to keep them high on the political agenda, prompted by the local pressure groups set-up to avoid future repetitions. Droughts, on the other hand, do not for the time-being seriously to discomfort the general public, so there is not the same pressure on politicians to avoid them.
To be very clear, the UKRMA is as keen as anyone else to make sure that damaging floods are avoided both now, and in the future when rainfall patterns are predicted to increase the risk. All we suggest is that the same organisations and individuals holding flood-related roles and responsibilities, also take equal drought-related responsibilities; this is the only way we can be confident that both sides of the rainwater management equation will properly be taken into account.
The task of avoiding future floods and droughts, given climate-change and population-growth impacts, is undoubtedly daunting and expensive; this makes it vital that the effort and associated costs start now to prepare for the future, so that effort and costs can be spread-out over the necessary strategic time-scale – a constraint acknowledged to be fraught with its own political difficulties
But the solution is not rocket-science; we need to make sure that, one way or another, we store enough of the wet-stuff when it is falling to meet the needs of people and the environment during subsequent dry spells. Done in only a slightly clever way, this would also play a strong role in helping to avoid floods during prolonged or heavy rain; it’s called “source control”.
[this editorial was brought to you by UKRMA]