As the UK continues to battle water shortages, Nick Baveystock, director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) calls for prompt and decisive action from all governments to avoid this becoming an annual spectre.
The challenges facing the management of the UK's water resources have been brought to centre stage in 2012, with droughts dominating the media over recent months.
It is frustrating that such dramatic events are required to spur the public, politicians and media into thinking about this issue but it would be equally frustrating not to capitalise on this opportunity to get the message across once and for all.
The UK's water security is at a critical point and requires prompt, decisive action to lift it out of danger.
This is not just because we have had unprecedented dry winters or that water companies have leaking pipes. It's because we have not planned strategically for the long-term, we have taken water for granted and because we urgently need new and upgraded infrastructure.
ICE has rated the UK's current water security as level four on a one to 10 scale where 10 indicates our water resources are secure and supply meets demand and one indicates recurring droughts with impact on society and the environment. This is concerning, not least because it's set to worsen with population growth meaning demand for our already stretched resources will increase and climate change meaning rain will no longer fall where and when we expect it.
We acknowledge good work is being done by government but we are concerned that it is not being done fast enough. The publication of a draft Water Bill which requires further consultation before it can be enacted was not unexpected but nevertheless disappointing. The recommendations are robust, however the longer they are delayed the harder it will be for them to be effective.
There is also a critical element missing from current plans - a co-ordinated, UK-wide strategy. In our State of the Nation report on Water launched today, ICE is calling for a 'UK Water Security Taskforce' to be established, with a goal of publishing an integrated strategy by spring 2014. To be effective the roadmap must identify future demand and how we can meet it, facilitate the development of new infrastructure and seek to educate the public on the true value of water to encourage demand-reducing behaviours. If the roadmap includes time-bound steps, ICE believes that the UK could be water secure and out of danger by 2025.
Can we afford not to take up the challenge?
To view the full 'State of the Nation: Water' report and a video comment from Richard Benyon MP, minister for the natural environment and fisheries, please visit http://www.ice.org.uk/sonwater2012. For more information about the report, please email email@example.com