The United Kingdom is facing a growing water crisis. There are several factors to it. Despite being known for its rainy climate, dry riverbeds have become a common sight in England. One particularly example is the River Derwent in Borrowdale, which has stopped flowing for three consecutive years, even during the rainy months.
Climate change plays a significant role in these changing weather patterns. As an aftermath, the summers are not hotter than before and water demand has increased. However, a major issue in the crisis is the over-reliance on water abstraction, which means the process of extracting water from rivers and underground reservoirs known as aquifers. The water and sewage network, in some cases, has not seen upgrades for decades. Water distribution pipes, for instance, are leaking a significant portion of the water they transport.
Approximately one-third of tap water in England comes from boreholes connected to aquifers, which can take decades to replenish. In the south and southeast, where groundwater is a primary source, this figure is even higher. In contrast, the wetter north primarily relies on water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
Insufficient investment in managing water abstraction and supply infrastructure expands the problem. The consequences of a drier-than-average summer can be severe. It is said that London now has only a limited three and a half weeks of water storage.
Summer heatwave of 2022 raised concerns about water shortages in several regions. Government agency National Infrastructure Commission has warned that the UK will need an additional 2.7 billion liters of daily water capacity by 2050 to ensure a consistent water supply during droughts.