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World Water Day 2019

November 12, 2019

Today is World Water Day, which focuses on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030

By Ruth Wakefield

However, it is reported that billions of people are still living without safe water, particularly in marginalised groups such as women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples and disabled people, who often experience discrimination while trying to access safe water. The aim of World Water Day is to focus on tackling this crisis.

Many people in the developed world may feel that they are removed from this crisis, however, we need to be mindful that due to rising populations and urbanisation, and the effects of climate change, water supply is an issue which will need addressing before water shortage is a regular problem.

In 2018, Cape Town experienced what it was like to be a city on the brink of running out of water, with severe water restrictions enforced and only weeks of water left before the rain came. After the incident, the chief executive of the South African Tourism, stated “We have recovered from the drought. However, we really want to share our lessons with the world around climate change issues. Drought is not a matter of ‘if’, it is a matter of ‘when’ in major cities around the world.”

The UK’s National Adaption Programme (NAP) (July 2018) focuses on “Making the country resilient to a changing climate.” The document discusses several issues associated with climate change and the Government’s 25-year goal to address these. Water supply and resources are highlighted as an area of concern and, the following 25 Year Environment Plan goal is included in the NAP:

“To provide ‘clean and plentiful water’ for future generations. To increase water supply and incentivise greater water efficiency to maintain a plentiful supply as demand increases and climate change impacts availability.”

The NAP discusses the need for “bold strategic decisions to secure new water supplies, such as new reservoirs and water transfer…with the combination of reducing demand.” The document also encourages an increase in water trading between water companies, particularly from the north and west to the south and east, where the population is increasing, and the impact of drought would be most acute.

This week the head of the Environment Agency, Sir James Bevan, spoke on this very subject. Sir James emphasised that the water companies across the country have raised concerns that in approximately 20 to 25 years England will reach the “jaws of death—the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs.” Sir James highlighted that the amount of available water could be reduced by 10–15% by 2050, with water in some rivers reducing by 50–80% during the summer months, therefore action is needed.

What can we do?

To address water scarcity, it is key that we focus on both decreasing water demand and increasing water supply. To decrease water demand the water companies have been tasked by Ofwat to reduce leakage by 15% by 2025. As responsible members of the public, we are being increasingly asked to reduce our water consumption, however as the last official drought to affect the UK was in 1976, many people take this resource for granted. Water meters are helping to raise our awareness of water usage; however, people need to be proactive in using water sensibly. Small changes, such as the installation of water butts, using devices to limit water used in toilet cisterns and power showers, and not watering garden lawns, can make a big difference.

Sustainable Drainage Systems design projects at Stantec

We have been delivering projects which provide sustainable water management from concept, through detailed design to construction, using traditional and innovative sustainable drainage systems (SUDS) solutions. These solutions include rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge through infiltration measures and features to slow down surface water runoff, such as green roofs, swales and ponds.

These projects include Silverlake in Dorset, where sub-base storage and swales have been designed to direct runoff into an on-site lake system; River Don District employment development in Sheffield, where we have proposed blue/green roofs and attenuation techniques; private water supply designed for Lower Mill estate to reduce pressure on the existing infrastructure; and numerous projects involving the design of infiltration drainage, for example, the large geo-cellular storage and infiltration system below the lawn in the central courtyard of Eton colleges' Bekynton Field. 

Originally published by PBA, now Stantec.

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