Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 7
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2009

3 - Adapting to the effects of climate change on water supply reliability



Climate change is expected to produce higher temperatures, drier summers and wetter winters across southern England. Reductions in water availability are expected as a consequence (Arnell, 2004) with direct abstractions becoming less reliable during summer and more seasonal, higher intensity rainfall producing high runoff and less water able to percolate into aquifers (Environment Agency, 2005). In an area already facing water deficits and supply challenges (Environment Agency, 2007a), and with increasing population demands, adaptation in the short term (to 2030) is necessary. With water resources in south-east England under increasing pressure, water companies and their regulators are exploring options to adapt not only to altered demands, but also to the challenge of climate change. The water supply industry in England and Wales is well aware of the challenge of climate change, and methodologies exist to both estimate the effects of climate change and support adaptation decisions (Arnell and Delaney, 2006). The industry has also identified a wide range of options for addressing the supply–demand imbalance, covering both supply-side and demand-side measures.

However, there are specific barriers to the implementation of each option, and some generic constraints on the ability of water supply companies to adapt to a changing climate. This chapter presents preliminary results from an assessment of the barriers to adaptation to water supply shortage in a case study catchment in south-east England with multiple supply companies.

Adger, W. N., Dessai, S., Goulden, M., Hulme, M., Lorenzoni, I., Nelson, D., Naess, L., Wolf, J., Wreford, A. 2009. ‘Are there social limits to adaptation to climate change?’, Climatic Change 93: 335–354.
Arnell, N. W. 1999. ‘A simple water balance model for the simulation of streamflow over a large geographic domain’, Journal of Hydrology 217: 314–335.
Arnell, N. W. 2004. ‘Climate change impacts on river flows in Britain: the UKCIP02 scenarios’, Journal of the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management 18: 112–117.
Arnell, N. W. and Delaney, E. K. 2006. ‘Adapting to climate change: public water supply in England and Wales’, Climatic Change 78: 227–255.
Berkhout, F., Hertin, J. and Gann, D. 2006. ‘Learning to adapt: organisational adaptation to climate change impacts’, Climatic Change 78: 135–156.
Defra, 2008. Future Water: the Government's Water Strategy for England, Cm7319. London: The Stationery Office.
,Environment Agency 2005. Medway Catchment Abstraction Management Strategy. Bristol: Environment Agency.
,Environment Agency 2007a. Identifying Areas of Water Stress. Bristol: Environment Agency.
,Environment Agency 2007b. Water Resources Planning Guideline, April 2007 and updates. Bristol: Environment Agency.
Hulme, M., Jenkins, G. J., Lu, X., Turnpennt, J. R., Mitchell, T. D., Jones, R. G., Lowe, J., Murphy, J. M., Hassell, D., Boorman, P., McDonald, R. and Hill, S. 2002. Climate Change Scenarios for the United Kingdom: The UKCIP02 Scientific Report. Norwich: Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia.
Warren, G. 2007. A Water Resource Strategy for the South East of England. Ashford: Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) South East.
,Water Resources in the South East 2006. WRSE Report on the Latest South East Plan Housing Provision and Distribution. Bristol: Environment Agency.