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Rain-sodden England told to use less water or face drought

by Lin Taylor | @linnytayls | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 23 May 2018 14:27 GMT

A man stands on dried up ground on West Common in Gerrard's Cross, southern England, July 26, 2006. REUTERS/Toby Melville

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A growing population, climate change, and the huge demand for water is unsustainable, the Environment Agency says

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, May 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Renowned for rain and surrounded by sea, England could run out of water by 2050 unless attitudes change and waste is cut, the country's environment body said on Wednesday.

It cited a growing population, bad water management and climate change as the main culprits, with the looming shortages a threat to people and wildlife alike.

"If we do not increase water supply, reduce demand and cut down on wastage, many areas will face significant water deficits by 2050, particularly in the south east (region)," said Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency.

Water scarcity already affects more than 40 percent of the world's population and is expected to rise due to global warming, with one in four people projected to face chronic or recurring shortages by 2050, according to the United Nations.

The agency said about 3 billion litres of water in England were wasted every day through leakages - the equivalent to that used by over 20 million people.

An average person in England uses 140 litres of water every day, according to what the agency described as the first major report on water resources in England.

"We need to change our attitudes to water use. It is the most fundamental thing needed to ensure a healthy environment but we are taking too much of it," said Boyd in a statement.

The agency said the huge public and industry demand for water was unsustainable and damaging rivers and local wildlife.

Since 1900, an estimated 64-71 percent of the world's natural wetland area has been lost due to human activity, according to the U.N.'s 2018 World Water Development Report.

Water UK, which represents Britain's big water and wastewater providers, said reducing leakages was a top priority.

"The water industry works hard to protect the environment," a spokesman said in an emailed statement. "We've also cut leakage a third since the 1990s, but we know there's a lot more to do which is why it's one of our top priorities."

Worldwide, 3.6 billion people, or nearly half the global population, live in areas at risk of being water-scarce for at least one month a year, the U.N. says.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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