‘Water could run out in next 10 years’ warns sector chief

Anglian Water's boss, Peter Simpson, has called for water to be the focus in the climate emergency

Anglian Water's boss, Peter Simpson, has called for water to be the focus in the climate emergency Picture: TIM GEORGE - Credit: Archant

A water company boss has called for the resource to be put at the top of the climate change emergency agenda as supplies come under increasing strain.

Anglian Water's boss, Peter Simpson, has called for water to be the focus in the climate emergency

Anglian Water's boss, Peter Simpson, has called for water to be the focus in the climate emergency Picture: TIM GEORGE - Credit: Archant

Anglian Water chief Peter Simpson said the changing climate was a challenge people living in the East of England – and water could run out very soon without action.

Speaking at a virtual Waterwise conference, Mr Simpson referred back to a speech a year ago by Environment Agency boss Sir James Bevan in which he warned of a ‘jaws of death’ scenario around water scarcity in the next 25 years.

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But while years ago the problem would have been tackled with a traditional solution, such as a new reservoir, a different strategy was now needed, he suggested.

“We need to stop thinking in a fixed way about the future and move to a scenario-based approach, developing supply and demand-based strategies.

“It won’t always be raining in the north west of our region and dry in the south east - climate change is much more uncertain than that.

“We need to think about potential future scenarios and develop strategies that position us best to tackle the most likely ones.”

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Anglian Water launched a Strategic Pipeline Alliance (SPA) last month aimed at delivering “the largest water infrastructure project we’ve seen for a generation”, said Mr Simpson.

Construction and engineering firms Costain, Farrans, Jacobs and Mott MacDonald Bentley were selected for the £350m pipeline scheme, involving around 500km of interconnecting pipes and associated pumping equipment.

“SPA gives us the ability not only to transfer water from one part of the region to another but to do it in a way that gives maximum flexibility to deal with the myriad of scenarios that might come along - and, critically, to do it with a view to other sectors’ demand for water in the future,” said Mr Simpson.

One flagship scheme is a Future Fenland Strategy, looking at the potential to combine flood defence with the provision of water for public supply, energy and agriculture, as well as social regeneration and sustainable new housing as a result.

“I believe one of the things we should be thinking about is not just hoping for the best in terms of impact of a changing climate, but actually planning for the worst,” he said.