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Annual review 2022

Water resources in England are set to be depleted in the coming decades

Safeguarding England’s water future


We’re working with English water companies on resource planning and large strategic schemes that will make England’s water supplies resilient against drought and shortages for the coming decades.


Multiple projects


Water companies, regional water resources groups, regulators




Carbon management, dam engineering, desalination, environmental assessments, hydraulic engineering, hydrogeology, hydrology, pipeline design, project management, regulatory engagement, social assessments and stakeholder engagement, transport and access, water quality, water treatment



Water in the UK may appear plentiful, but the threat of shortage in the coming decades, especially in the south and east of England, is real. The two main drivers for this are climate change and population growth.

The rising temperatures and changing weather patterns associated with climate change are expected to deplete the water available from existing sources in England by as much as 15% by 2050. At the same time, population growth means that there will be a steady increase in demand over the same period, with England requiring 3.4bn extra litres of water per day. The result of these trends is that, within 20 years, we will reach a point described by Sir James Bevan, chief executive of the Environment Agency, as the “jaws of death”, where the opposing trend lines meet and demand outstrips supply.

Looking to the 2040s and beyond, we are helping water companies in the water-stressed south and east of England, as well as two regional groups, Water Resources East and Water Resources South East, to plan for water security and resilience. Our contributions include engineering, environmental and water quality advisory, catchment management, project and programme management, stakeholder engagement, cost modelling and investment planning, and more. We have also helped regulators assess options.

Water abstraction to meet human, industrial and agricultural demand is severely stressing and degrading the natural environment. In seeking to bolster supply, it is clear that continued unsustainable abstraction from watercourses and groundwater is not the answer, since it will negatively impact both ecology and the quantity and quality of water available in the future. Many catchments cannot support further abstraction, and indeed, some existing abstractions will need to be reduced to achieve ambitions for a healthier, more biodiverse environment.

Measures to reduce water demand – including reducing leakage, the use of metering, and promoting efficient water use – will be necessary, but are not sufficient. Additional sources of supply will be needed, and on a large scale.