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Southwest Environmental Limited
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Environmental Consultancy Services to Industry, Business and Individuals

UK WATER USAGE - PRESENT SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES 

Agriculture, together with the associated food processing, distribution, retail and catering sectors provides 358,000 jobs and over £12.9 billion to the economy of theeastern region, much of which would be at risk if water supplies were limited. O1000 farms depend on irrigation to supply high quality fruit, vegetables, potatoes and salads. 30% of all potatoes and 25 % of all vegetables and fruit sold through the

multiples comes from these irrigated farms.”Q

Whilst in LDCs people die from lack of water, in the UK the damage done is mainly environmental and economic.

PRESENT: PROBLEMS 

PROBLEM 1: WRONG PLACE

Although wet and dry regions are a lot less pronounced in the UK than say Australia, It just so happens that the most intensely arable regions of the UK are also the driest. This exasperates the situation somewhat.

On the flip side areas receiving the warm south-westerly have a great deal more rain fall, up to 3 times as much in extreme cases.

If we picture the landscape in the areas receiving most rainfall, we think of Moors (Southwest), Mountains (Snowdonia), Mountains again, Lake District etc etc. These are not your typical low land arable areas with high water needs, and although rivers run down from these areas to localities where it may be abstracted, the bulk of this good fresh water will go straight in the sea.

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Average Rainfalls Anual 1971 - 2000 from The Met OfficeK

PROBLEM 2: WRONG TIME

Again the UK does not suffer from seasonal variations as much as other countries, however, we are a densely populated island, and the demand on water resources is high.

 

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Average Rainfalls Winter / Summer 1971 - 2000 from The Met OfficeK

It is an unfortunate coincidence that the most important growing season is summer, which has the lowest rainfall. It is therefore vital to manage water resource very carefully. In the UK the EA have great powers to enforce the proper use of water, which can make food production more difficult. In countries where there is no minimum flow to maintain a higher % of the water in the rivers are available for use.

“PROBLEM” 3: HIGH ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS

Environmentalists may not perceive this as a problem as such, but in the UK large quantities of water are needed to maintain the Statutory Minimum Flows, this filters down to hit farmers with licensing, as all the licensed abstractions (managed with CAMS) in a given area must not affect the SMF consultants.

This concept that the river itself needs water, means there is less water available for irrigation. If in midsummer the river drops below the Hands off Level (Usually set above SMF, then farmers must stop pumping to avoid a fine. However, if there is a choice between loosing £10k of potatoes or paying a £5k fine, you can guess what will happen.

J- http://en.wikipedia.org/ (31/12/09)

K- http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/averages/ukmapavge.html# (31/12/09)