Climate change

We consider the impacts of climate change on our services and adapt our business accordingly.

Climate change is the long-term change in average weather conditions, including temperature, precipitation and wind. It is predicted that our climate will change dramatically and for the North West, this will result in higher daily temperatures in both winter and summer, and a shift in our rainfall from summer to winter. This will mean there is likely to be:

  • more frequent and/or higher magnitude drought events in summer;
  • more rainfall in the winter; and
  • more occurrences of heavy rainfall.

Climate change has been the subject of strategic concern to us for over two decades. As a water and wastewater utility provider, we have first-hand experience of the impacts of extreme weather events on our operations and our customers, and we recognise our part to play in mitigating climate change.

Our response to climate change can be split into two areas:

  • adaptation - making sure our services are resilient to a changing climate; and
  • mitigation - minimise our contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, especially through our energy strategy.
  • Adaptation

     The potential effect of climate change on our future water resources is considered in our 25-year Water Resource Management Plan and we published two adaptation reports in 2011 and 2015. The first adaptation report (PDF 3.48 MB opens in new window) explains to government how we are preparing for a changing climate and sets out how we intend to manage material risks associated with climate change and outlines our partnership-based approach. Our second adaptation report (PDF 2.08 MB opens in new window), published in 2015, builds on this and reports progress on our actions.

    It is predicted that climate change will result in the North West experiencing higher daily temperatures all year, and a shift in our rainfall from summer to winter. More occurrences of heavy rainfall are expected, with higher rainfall in winter but more frequent and/or severe drought events predicted in summer.

    We have first-hand experience of the impacts of extreme weather events on our operations and customers – during 2018 we experienced two weather extremes, with a deep freeze followed by rapid thaw in the early part of the year, and then extremely hot, dry weather coupled with significantly increased demand for water over the summer. 


    Coping with extreme hot, dry periods requires action in relation to both supply and demand. 

    Supply is managed by ensuring we continue to have resilient water resources and infrastructure capable of moving water efficiently around the region. We have an integrated supply zone covering the majority of our region operated using our Systems Thinking approach. This helps us to manage water supply and demand and, where there is any potential shortfall, we bring more supplies online to meet demand. Generally this system is proficient, but there are areas that require further improvements to deal with future challenges. Our West East Link Main pipeline runs between Manchester and Liverpool, allowing transfer of water across our region, and the extreme dry weather in 2018 gave us cause to increase the capacity of this pipeline, as well as bringing additional groundwater sources online, both of which increased our resilience.

    Demand is managed by encouraging and supporting customers to use water efficiently. We have increased our efforts in this area and ran a number of high profile campaigns in summer 2018 when demand was much higher than normal. We encourage customers to save water through education initiatives to raise awareness, sharing water saving tips on our website and through social media, and providing free water-saving devices. We work with external partners to expand our messaging further afield, and have increased the number of water meters installed, with 44 per cent of households in our region now fitted with meters.


    Coping with periods of intense heavy rainfall requires action to cope with excess surface water drainage while minimising the risk of sewer flooding, pollution and spills.

    Traditional interventions, such as storage tanks and enlarging sewers, are costly and subject to constraints for space, particularly in urban areas with little permeable ground. Innovation is needed to find new solutions, which is why we have increased our focus on the use of sustainable drainage solutions in recent years, working with partners to transform hard-grey areas into living planted places.

    Our operations produce sludges, excavated materials and general office waste, which we are committed to managing in a sustainable way. Less than five per cent of our waste goes to landfill, we use recycled products where practical, and are working to reduce the use of plastics. We look for ways to reduce our use of raw materials to minimise our environmental impact and increase efficiency.

  • Mitigation

    There is global scientific agreement that as a result of human activity the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs). in the atmosphere is increasing and affecting the global climate. Therefore minimising the GHGs emitted as a result of our operations will mitigate climate change.

    Measuring & reporting our greenhouse gas emissions

    We are dedicated to understanding how every aspect of our operations contributes to our emissions. We’re also committed to reporting our impact in the most transparent and robust way possible. We set out the boundary of our footprint and previous year’s performance within our annual report.

    Verification and performance

    We want our carbon footprint to be as robust and transparent as possible. Since 2007, our greenhouse gas inventory has undergone independent, third-party verification by Achilles Group to meet the specifications of the Certified Emissions Measurement and Reduction Scheme (CEMARS). This includes compliance with the international carbon reporting standard ISO14064, Part 1. We incorporate recommendations we receive during CEMARS verification audits into our business processes.

    We continue to benchmark our performance against several global indices, including CDP, and we share our footprint annually with our regulator Ofwat as part of the water industry-wide regulatory return process.

    Our greenhouse gas emissions

    By 2020 we aim to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent from the 2005/06 baseline and to achieve a 60 per cent reduction by 2035. We are pleased to report that for 2018/19 our carbon emissions were 167,856 tCO2e, 71 per cent below the 2005/06 baseline.

    We have achieved our emission target early as a result of purchasing certified renewable electricity, with over 95 per cent of the electricity we use having zero emissions. We will now focus on our remaining emissions, the majority of which are from processing wastewater and the treatment and disposal of sludge.  In line with our refreshed environmental policy, published in October 2018, we recognise our obligation to mitigate climate change and will continue to explore ways to lower our GHG emissions. We will set a new science based emissions target and evolve our reporting in line with expectations to achieve net zero emissions.

    Our carbon footprint since 2005/06

    Our cabon footprint since 2005/06


  • Our energy strategy

    Our energy management strategy aims to achieve an appropriate balance between managing our energy consumption, use of renewables and self-generation and being smart about how we operate our assets to get best value while maintaining security of supply.

    Energy efficiency measures are important but there are limits to the extent they can contribute to any mitigation strategy therefore we need to deploy renewable technologies effectively to fill the gap.

    Our first 500kW turbine is now generating power at our Fleetwood treatment works. This facility is also home to one of the biggest solar panel installations in the North West. During 2015/16, we installed Europe's first commercial scale floating solar array at Godley Reservoir in Manchester. It covers an area equal to six football pitches, with 12,000 panels on 30,000 floats, and generates 35% of the water treatment works' total power.

    Our Manchester Bioresources Centre in Davyhulme employs a ground-breaking configuration of thermal hydrolysis to maximise energy generation from sludge. It won an Institute of Chemical Engineers award for innovation in 2013/14, and the Institute of Civil Engineers ‘Large project of the year award’ in 2019.

    In 2018-19 year we used 976GWh of energy from electricity, natural gas and other fuels such as diesel to power our works and for transport. The prolonged dry and warm conditions from January 2018 increased customer demand for water and required more pumping to move water around our integrated network. As a result, we estimate that we used up to 30GWh more electricity.

    We generated the equivalent of 173GWh of renewable electricity, an increase of 6GWh on last year. We achieved this with a mix of generation from wind, hydro, solar photovoltaics and energy recovery from bioresources (using sewage sludge to power combined heat and power generators).

    We continued to invest in our generation capability with nine new solar installations coming on line during the year. Most of the energy we generate is used to power our operations, but where there is excess or it makes commercial sense to do so we export to the grid. We are exploring emerging technologies such as batteries and electric vehicles and investigating how systems thinking and artificial intelligence might optimise our energy use and generation.

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