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.