Water is an essential, finite resource and basic fundamental need for existence. Pressures on freshwater availability and security in the UK is rapidly increasing and poses mounting challenges for sustainable water management control solutions, particularly in Southern England and surrounding regions. Over-abstraction to meet the demands of growing populations, agricultural and industrial use, combined with the effects of climate change are causing multiple challenges in many water-stressed regions, which is likely to be increased to unprecedented levels.
Variable rainfall patterns and frequency of use (driven by agricultural and industrial needs, a growing population and individuals’ use of more water-intensive goods and services) has culminated in the effects of water shortages becoming increasingly critical for the environment, food production, industrial efficiency and households.
With catastrophic climate change (global warming) increasingly apparent the need for decision-making in high risk areas such as water supply has never been more prevalent and therefore requires high levels of confidence in forecasts. Yet we are currently unable tot predict the occurrence, duration and intensity of drought events. Understanding how these times are modulated by longer term climate and water management, as well as the factors affecting individual and community responses to such events and understanding the associated impacts will certainly assist on how we can attempt to readdress the situation before it is too late.
At present, the drivers of drought and water scarcity, both meteorological (e.g. through anticyclonic blocking) and societal (e.g. supply and demand balance, water storage, transfer and utility trends), are considered in isolation. This means we lack knowledge about how they jointly influence the behaviour of complex hydrological, ecological, agricultural, social, cultural and economic systems. We are thus unable to effectively calculate the costs associated with stressing these systems, and it is difficult to make informed management decisions about trade-offs between competing demands therefore combining all factors with poor regulatory of water and prolific waste means that water shortages certainly lay ahead.
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