Our teams work hard every day to ensure customers have a safe, resilient water supply on tap. However, this is getting harder as our region faces many challenges which impact the amount of water available to us.
The impacts of these challenges are alarming, as over a third of our water supplies will be lost by 2050. Without long-term planning, there will simply not be enough water to supply our customers in the future, despite our leadership in leakage and resilience, and decades of hard work and investment in this area already.
That’s why we never stop looking for ways to futureproof our region for generations to come. A key part of planning ahead and guarding against the challenges we face is our Water Resources Management Plan (WRMP), which we produce every five years. It sets out how we will manage the water supplies in our region to meet current and future needs, looking ahead 25 years or more.
The challenges and drivers that affect how much water is available include:
We have an excellent track record of investing in resilience. This meant we were able to avoid a hosepipe ban in this region despite the record temperatures and drought in summer 2022. However, we are experiencing hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters. Drought is expected to become more common. Ultimately, the changing climate impacts the groundwaters and river catchments we use to supply drinking water, and reduces the amount of water we have available for customer taps.
Need to protect the environment
Reducing the amount of water we take from rivers and water sources is one of the biggest actions we can take to protect the environment. Driven by our Purpose, we were the only water company to voluntarily cap our abstraction licences by 2025. This will see us make an 85 million litre reduction in our abstraction licences, the highest impact seen in the water industry and enough to supply two new cities. We continue to work with the Environment Agency to further reduce the amount of water we abstract from sensitive areas.
Limited water supplies - we believe that taking less water from the environment is the right thing to do. However, it means we must find alternative ways to keep taps flowing. This is becoming increasingly difficult as there are limited opportunities for us to increase output from our existing water sources or optimise our water network further. Instead, we need to develop significant infrastructure such as new raw water storage reservoirs and water reuse, both of which have long delivery timescales.
The East of England has experienced the highest growth rates in the United Kingdom since the 2011 census. We expect this to continue with an additional 911,000 people predicted to live in our region by 2050.
A step-change in demand management - we have a strong track record for managing the impact of growth. We put the same amount of water into supply now as we did back in 1989, despite a 30% population increase in that time. However, opportunities for reducing water usage and leakage are becoming increasingly limited, as we have invested heavily in leakage reduction and metering since privatisation and remain at the forefront of the industry in this field. Building on our leadership in these areas, we have invested significantly in smart metering and smart networks, allowing us to understand consumption like never before, which we will use to develop more innovative methods to drive the next step change in reducing demand.
Since the publication of our Strategic Direction Statement in 2007, we are well-placed to ensure our customers will continue to have water ‘on tap’ in the future. We detail how we will achieve this in our Water Resources Management Plan.
Following the consultation on our draft WRMP24, we have produced a Statement of Response, accompanied by a revised draft WRMP24.
This revised draft WRMP24 demonstrates how we will ensure a sustainable and secure supply of clean drinking water for our customers from 2025 to 2050, building on our previous plan, WRMP19. It also shows how we will balance resilient water supplies with the needs of the environment, our customers and affordability.
Our revised draft WRMP24 strategy focusses on:
Demand management - building on our smart metering strategy which will allow us to communicate with our customers more effectively, encourage them to use less water, and also enables us to identify leaks on customers’ properties more quickly. Demand management is a crucial part of our plan to ensure we have time to assess, plan for, and construct, our new supply options.
Two new raw water reservoirs - one in the Fens and another in south Lincolnshire will supply water to around 625,000 homes. They have the potential to provide other great benefits too, such as wellbeing for communities, new habitats for wildlife and also possible irrigation opportunities.
Utilising other sources of water, such as water reuse, desalination and transfers. You can read more about these in our non-technical summary.