Whilst society will experience the consequences of climate change in many ways, the most obvious will be in the water cycle on which we all depend. Changes in the frequency and intensity of weather events, the consequent impacts on water quantity and quality present challenges to our sector. It is imperative we understand and take appropriate steps to secure a resilient service.
Over the past decade, the collaborative research body UK Water Industry Research Ltd, which acts on behalf of all UK water companies, has studied and developed tools to understand and plan for climate change. For the past 6 years the climate programme has been led by Scottish Water.
The work provides analysis and insight into the range of challenges that climate change may present to water services. This encompasses water resources, water quality, impact on water in supply, through to drainage risks, temperature impacts on treatment and asset deterioration. Interdependencies across sectors of the economy must also be recognised in developing adaptation strategies. There has been extensive work to understand the UK's climate projections and to develop tools to integrate this within water resource modelling techniques on which all water companies rely. This has enabled water companies to develop and plan for a range of climate scenarios and their consequences for water resources.
With respect to wastewater and sewerage there remain significant challenges to integrate climate models. Drainage flows are impacted by a range of environmental and land use changes, and rely on long established rainfall time series that offer probabilities for rainfall intensity and duration across the year. Novel techniques are being developed to apply climate projections to such models, and enable companies to more confidently use in drainage planning.
Scottish Water has benefited from applying these approaches and is focused on investing to deliver a service that is resilient to climate change. In addition to the use of models, it is imperative that we undertake increased monitoring of the environment and how it may change, covering water resource quantity and quality, and drainage flows. This will enable us to better understand change and to make the appropriate interventions at the right time to secure a resilient service.