What are the most pressing issues for the UK’s water infrastructure?

Water infrastructure Ellis Fox Blog

It’s an expectation of modern day to be able to turn on a tap and get clean water. Yet with increasing levels of pollution, as well as floods and droughts becoming more common, ensuring a clean and reliable water supply is becoming more challenging. As the UK heads into what’s predicted to be another scorching hot summer, what should the focus be for the UK’s water infrastructure?

Upgrading aging infrastructure

The volumes of water lost due to leaks and burst pipes is massive. In 2021, it was reported to exceed 1 trillion litres! Even with routine maintenance aging infrastructure is particularly prone to leakages. The challenge is that no-one wants to spend money on pipes that aren’t broken so most infrastructure upgrades only occur when burst pipes are being fixed. This reactive approach means that upgrades take place slowly and sporadically, and millions of litres of water continue to be lost in the process. While there’s general consensus that leakage needs to be reduced, practically, water utilities have not had much success in achieving this.

Containing ground water pollution

The volume of clean water is gradually being reduced as a result of pollution. This contamination comes from the manufacturing industry, landfill, agriculture and general waste. As much as there are regulations in place to try to prevent this, the volume of pollution is growing at a rate that is difficult to manage. In terms of water infrastructure this is adding to the costs as water testing and treatment are required to ensure that clean water can be delivered to communities.

Water recycling

One of the solutions to the diminishing water supply is for commerce and industry to recycle the water used in processing. Rather than taking clean water and discharging contaminated water, processes can be put in place that filter the water and reuse it. This has the benefit of keeping contaminated water out of systems and reducing the volumes of clean water required. However, it requires expertise skilled in managing the hazardous waste that is extracted from the used water supply to ensure that it is properly disposed of. Merely dumping it will likely result in soil and ground water contamination.

Community partnerships

Reducing water usage and waste is a high priority. But this can only be achieved with commerce, industry and communities doing their part. Actively developing these relationships and educating people on the importance of saving water will become a key part of attaining water resilience in the UK.