Consultation on emerging water resources plan for Eastern England launched

The Eastern region of the UK is facing a water crisis. It is short of water now and if nothing changes the water shortage will get worse. This is the message coming out of Water Resources East’s emerging Water Resources Plan published today for informal consultation.

The emerging, adaptive regional plan has been co-created in collaboration with WRE’s cross-sector members and stakeholders, sending a clear message that water is not an issue which can, or should be, solved by one group of water users alone. It is the first stage of a two-year process that will culminate in a final plan being produced in autumn 2023.

The emerging plan reveals that by 2050, the Eastern region could require around double (2,267 Ml/d) the amount of water currently used. This arises from an increasing demand for public water supply and for the agri-food and the energy sectors, alongside an increasing allocation to the natural environment, and mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

By far the biggest driver influencing the plan is the need to leave water in the environment (known as sustainability reductions) to restore, protect and enhance the region’s sensitive water bodies such as the region’s precious chalk rivers and rewetting landscapes such as wetlands and peatlands that naturally act as a carbon sink, capturing millions of tonnes of CO2.

The consultation launched today, highlights a number of emerging supply side options and alternative sources, together with demand management measures, that will be needed at different time periods to 2050 to help meet these ambitious sustainability reductions and increasing water demand forecasts from across sectors.

The strategic, multi-sector options identified in collaboration with our members and stakeholders, will continue to be explored through 2022, together with local and catchment level members’ and stakeholders’ demand and supply options, to inform WRE’s draft regional plan published for consultation in autumn 2022.

Some of the options identified in the emerging plan published today to help meet the long-term demand include:

  • Additional investment by WRE water companies to reduce leakage and help customers use more water efficiently.
  • Exploration and piloting of innovative tariffs.
  • The development of two new multi-sector reservoirs, aquifer storage and recovery and effluent re-use schemes and next generation desalination using renewable energy.
  • Identification of local multi-sector options, for example, storage reservoirs and open waterways that can also act as flood resilience while also providing benefits to tourism and well-being.

In conjunction, work on WRE’s flagship projects with members and partners will continue to 2023 to explore the art of the possible and help inform the final Water Resources Plan published in autumn 2023. Some of these projects include:

  • The Norfolk Water Management Plan aiming to create a long-term investable programme of nature based solutions, delivered at scale, that can attract large scale funding to help address water security challenges.
  • The Chalk Stream Restoration Project which is reviewing approaches to improving the resilience of chalk stream catchments, taking a wider view than simply reducing abstraction.
  • Future Fens, an integrated multi-benefit water management strategy in the Fens.

“We are consulting on our emerging water resources plan for the East of England. It contains developing thinking on how best to help address the water crisis in the Eastern region and also takes in to account the national situation. The current focus is on identifying the no or low regret actions which are appropriate to progress now. These will include the initial planning and development aspects of strategic options. It will be many years before they are providing additional water supplies, but work needs to start on them now. 

“However, the actions will not be taken by WRE. It will be for other sectors to incorporate the issues and solutions identified within their planning processes. The WRE plan and process will provide a context and a means by which interested parties can have more confidence in making their choices.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has enabled us to reach this very important juncture. This published emerging plan marks a key stage in the national water resource planning process. With just under two years to go before we publish our ‘final’ Regional Plan, this is a good time to pause and reflect and to invite people to provide feedback on the work to date and the emerging proposals for this first-ever multi-sector water resource management plan for the East of England”. 

Dr Paul Leinster, Independent Chair of WRE 

Regional water resources plan

Find out more about WRE’s emerging regional plan and respond to the consultation.

Posted: 17 January 2022