'Jaws of death': England could face water shortages within the next 25 years

Key Points
  • The chief executive of the Environment Agency delivered remarks at the Waterwise Conference in London.
  • He highlighted the importance of reducing demand for water and increasing supply.
The dried up bed of Yarrow Reservoir near Bolton, England, on July 23, 2018.
Christopher Furlong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

England could experience water shortages within the next 25 years, the chief executive of the Environment Agency has warned.

James Bevan delivered remarks at the Waterwise Conference in London on Tuesday, and stated that in around 20 to 25 years from now, the country would face a "jaws of death – the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs."

Because of the effects of climate change, the U.K. will have summers that are hotter and drier, which will lead to an increasing number of water shortages, Bevan noted.

He explained how, by the middle of the century, the amount of available water could drop by 10 to 15 percent, with many parts of the country facing "significant water deficits by 2050."

Climate change, coupled with population growth, will result in an "existential threat" to "our economy, environment, security, happiness, way of life," Bevan said. "We can choose to ignore this problem. Or we can choose to tackle it."

The speech highlighted the importance of reducing demand and increasing supply. This could be achieved through a range of methods, from cutting leakages and more water metering to increasing supply through the construction of new desalination plants and reservoirs.

Crucially, people will also need to cut the amount of water they waste. "We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea," Bevan said. "We need everyone to take responsibility for their own water usage."

Bevan noted that the average person in the U.K. currently uses 140 liters a day. This is a figure that Waterwise, an independent NGO, estimates can be cut to 100 liters a day.

People will need to undertake several measures to reduce their usage. These include taking short showers instead of deep baths, using low flush toilets, and turning the tap off while brushing teeth.

"If by 2050 we reduced per capita consumption to 100 liters a day, leakage by 50 percent, and did nothing else, it would provide enough water for an additional 20 million people without taking any more from the environment," Bevan explained, noting that while the goal of long-term water resilience was ambitious, "it is also achievable."