“It’s the demand side that we’re a bit more in the dark.”

This story is an extract from an interview with Yorkshire Water.

“My responsibilities are ensuring that we deliver our long term water resource plans. So our water resource management plan and also our drought plan. 

I think our problem is we haven’t actually seen a drought, in Yorkshire, since 99, 1995, 1996. We’ve had short, dry periods. We haven’t got any recent experience of what we could expect, in terms of customer demand, customer response to drought. And things have changed a lot in the last twenty years, in terms of people’s understand and perception of climate change. Their expectations of a water company, their expectations of what we would and wouldn’t provide to them in a drought so I think we’ve got a lot of information that we can use to model the supply impact of drought but it’s the demand side that we’re  a bit more in the dark on.

I think, increasingly, we’re under a lot of pressure, certainly in Sheffield’s one and also the Calder Valley to manage our reservoirs for flood alleviation, rather than for their real purpose, which is to supply water to customers. And I think part of that is because we haven’t seen an extended period of dry weather so people almost forget that we can have a drought. They see flooding and flooding’s a very immediate thing, whereas drought it a more long term thing. So yes, I think we do have a bit of a challenge to get peoples’s perception to remember what the reservoirs are there for. 

In terms of drought, I think one of the key players might well be Canal and River Trust, whose assets could be used as a conduit, for moving water around. Certainly, back in 2012, when there was dry weather and we were alright in Yorkshire but Anglian Water really struggled to maintain supplies because they’re very dependent on groundwater and groundwater just wasn’t topped up so there were national meetings and Canal and River Trust were certainly part of all that discussion.

So when we’re planning for future water supply, we do look at what we think new house builds will use and we plan for them to be built more in terms of these, well it was the code for sustainable homes. It’s now built into the building regs so there is an assumption that these houses will, from the offset, be more water efficient. What we don’t know is, as time goes on, whether all these water efficient appliance that are put in, when the house is built, actually remain in. Whether people actually think I don’t like this really slow tap or whatever and change it. That’s what time will tell but yeah, we did a little, we participated in the WRC research project for the last plan, which took a sample of new houses and measured use and they definitely were lower water using than your standard, measured customers. But rain water harvesting, a lot of these things you definitely, you’re better off putting in from the start. They’re very hard to retrofit, into existing properties, aren’t they?”.

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