IPPR North wants us all to know that the North of England must, well, must something because it’s going to run out of water. Climate change don’tcha know.
The north accounts for 41% of all water abstracted across England, but it relies far more on surface water than elsewhere in the country. With global heating, the likelihood of drought is projected to increase while average summer river flows may decrease, reducing water availability, even as the risk of flooding is likely to increase, particularly in winter.
The logical answer is to increase supply - the supply that is captured for use over time - by building more reservoirs. This is the total discussion of this option in the report:
There are very limited opportunities to substantially increase the supply of water, for example by building new reservoirs, because of a lack of water availability, abstraction limitations, and the likely impact upon the natural environment.
If we’re to have winter floods and summer shortages we’ve not a shortage of surface water. We’ve only a shortage of places to keep it - meaning the restriction must be those impacts upon the natural environment. Mustn’t flood a few valleys so that humans can luxuriate in hot water now, must we?
Well, actually, yes we should. As was said a few years back:
Colin Green, professor of water economics at the University of Middlesex, says part of the problem with reservoirs is they are a huge investment, and it is hard to predict how things will change in the next 40 years.
"We built a lot of reservoirs in the 1960s in expectation of a lot of growth in industrial water consumption, which didn't take place.
"We don't really want to build a lot of reservoirs now and then find we just spent hundreds of millions of pounds and the water sort of just sits there looking nice and we using it for boating," he says.
Now we do know of course, the science is settled. We’ll need the reservoirs so we’d better get on with building them. That is, we can actually change that natural environment around us in order to benefit us all. What does anyone think being human is if not this?