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.