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UK water use 'worsening global crisis'

Climatic change will increase water stress in many places, the report says

The amount of water used to produce food and goods imported by developed countries is worsening water shortages in the developing world, a report says.

The report, focusing on the UK, says two-thirds of the water used to make UK imports is used outside its borders.

The Engineering the Future alliance of professional engineering bodies says this is unsustainable, given population growth and climate change.

It says countries such as the UK must help poorer nations curb water use.

“We must take account of how our water footprint is impacting on the rest of the world,” said Professor Roger Falconer, director of the Hydro-Environmental Research Centre at Cardiff University and a member of the report’s steering committee.

“If we are to prevent the ‘perfect storm’, urgent action is necessary.”

The term perfect storm was used last year by the UK government’s chief scientist, Professor John Beddington, to describe future shortages of energy, food and water.

Forecasts suggest that when the world’s population soars beyond 8bn in 20 years time, the global demand for food and energy will jump by 50%, with the need for fresh water rising by 30%.

But developing countries are already using significant proportions of their water to grow food and produce goods for consumption in the West, the report says.

“The burgeoning demand from developed countries is putting severe pressure on areas that are already short of water,” said Professor Peter Guthrie, head of the Centre for Sustainable Development at Cambridge University, who chaired the steering group.

“If the water crisis becomes critical, it will pose a serious threat to the UK’s future development because of the impact it would have on our access to vital resources.”

Key to the report is the concept of “embedded water” – the water used to grow food and make things.

Embedded in a pint of beer, for example, is about 130 pints (74 litres) of water – the total amount needed to grow the ingredients and run all the processes that make the pint of beer.

A cup of coffee embeds about 140 litres (246 pints) of water, a cotton T-shirt about 2,000 litres, and a kilogram of steak 15,000 litres.

Using this methodology, UK consumers see only about 3% of the water usage they are responsible for.

The average UK consumer uses about 150 litres per day, the size of a large bath.

Ten times as much is embedded in the British-made goods bought by the average UK consumer; but that represents only about one-third of the total water embedded in all the average consumer’s food and goods, with the remainder coming from imports.

The UK is not unique in this – the same pattern is seen in most developed countries.

The engineering institutions say it means nations such as the UK have a duty to help curb water use in the developing world, where about one billion people already do not have sufficient access to clean drinking water.

UK-funded aid projects should have water conservation as a central tenet, the report recommends, while companies should examine their supply chains and reduce the water used in them.

This could lead to difficult questions being asked, such as whether it is right for the UK to import beans and flowers from water-stressed countries such as Kenya.

While growing crops such as these uses water, selling them brings foreign exchange into poor nations.

In the West, the report suggests, concerns over water could eventually lead to goods carrying a label denoting their embedded water content, in the same way as electrical goods now sport information about their energy consumption.

The Engineering the Future alliance includes the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) and the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News – Click here for full article
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Posted by on May 5, 2010 in Water

 

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Britain Unveils Ambitious Agenda for Nuclear, Wind

nuclear plantFrustrated with bureaucratic red-tape and an “exhaustive planning process,” Britain is planning to speed up the process for approving large wind farms and nuclear power plants.

According to Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband, decisions for nuclear plants larger than 50MW and offshore wind farms over 100MW will now be completed in one year or less.  “It serves neither the interests of energy security, the interests of the low carbon transition, nor the interests of people living in areas where infrastructure may be built for the planning process to take years to come to a decision.”

Britain has named 10 sites where new nuclear reactors could be built.  Approximately 11GW of nuclear energy is currently installed in Britain, and the nation aims to add 5GW more by 2030.  Read the full article…

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2009 in Nuclear, Wind

 

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UK Requires £200 Billion for Energy Infrastructure Upgrades

UK Regulator Warns of Higher Prices & Missed Emissions Targets

UK energy regulator Ofgem issued a stark warning last week – if Britain does not make necessary upgrades to its energy-related infrastructure, the nation is in danger of intermittent power outages, high price increases, and may not meet its legally binding carbon emissions reduction targets.  Ofgem is advising as much as £200 billion ($317 billion) needs to be spent on new power plants, gas-storage facilities, upgrades to the power grid and deployment of renewable energy in the UK.  Continued energy price volatility could result in price increases of between 14% and 23% by 2020.  Ofgem says under a worst case scenario where a dearth of energy spending leaves insufficient infrastructure, costs could skyrocket by as much as 60% by 2020.  The regulator is calling on the British government to lay out a “clear policy framework” to encourage new investments.

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2009 in Clean Energy, Investments

 

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British Gas Imports on the Rise as North Sea Production Falls

Sharp Increase in Britain’s Reliance on Foreign Imports

According to figures from the National Grid, Britain will reply on foreign natural gas imports to supply 50% of its winter heating gas supplies this year– the highest amount in history.  Until only a few years ago, Britain was a net exporter of gas, but production from its aging fields has not keep up with growth in domestic energy demand.  In 2004, Britain required foreign gas imports for the first time.  That year, 5% of natural gas needs were met with imports.  In 2007, that number jumped to 27%, and this year’s figure is almost double that.  Britain’s natural gas imports come mainly from countries such as Norway, Qatar, Trinidad and Algeria.  National Grid’s annual Winter Outlook reports that fuel production in the North Sea will likely fall 6% below last year’s levels, and will likely lead to even more imports as time goes on.  “On the current trajectory we will have to import three quarters of our gas by 2015,” said a spokesman for Centrica, which owns British Gas.  Britain relies on natural gas for electricity generation as well as heating purposes.  Today, approximately 35% of electricity in the UK is generated from natural gas-fired plants, compared to less than 5% in 1990.  Energy analysts warn that growing reliance on imports may increase volatility in UK gas prices, leading to higher costs for end consumers.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2009 in Oil

 

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