Quarries being examined to tackle looming water deficit

Quarries could be used as reservoirs in Essex as part of solutions to tackle a looming huge water deficit.

Water companies predict that by 2050 the county will only have available to it 63 per cent of the water it needs.

By 2050 there is set to be a shortage of nearly 150 million litres every single day if nothing is done.

It is estimated that by 2050 the East of England will experience a public water supply shortage of around 730 million litres of water per day (Ml/d), equal to over a third of the predicted future need.

Essex is already classified as a seriously water-stressed area and extrapolating data on the long-term average rainfall in Essex the situation could get worse.

In the past 30 years, there has been less rainfall in spring and more peaks over autumn and winter than during the 30 years previous to that.

Less rainfall early in the year can be particularly problematic for agriculture and can directly affect the availability and dependency on groundwater aquifer sources.

Despite the deficit, the average Essex household water consumption in 2021/2022 was between 155 and 160 litres per person per day (l/p/d) – almost ten per cent higher than the average in England of 144 l/p/d

As part of a series of recommendations for Essex County Council to lead on the council will prioritise providing infrastructure for local water supply such as new reservoirs, floodwater and winter storage opportunities as part of after-use options for mineral and waste sites especially where the impact of the mineral extractions creates a water storage opportunity and where there may be local need to increase water resources.

The council will also Run the Essex Water Your Future campaign from 2024/ 2027 to increase understanding of the water challenge in Essex and will require that all new developments implement the design standards to ensure they do not add pressure to existing sewerage.

Jillo Ntim, Water Strategy Representative for the Young Essex Assembly said in a forward to the Water Strategy for Essex: “It is crucial that all residents of Essex learn the short-term and long-term effects of something as simple as leaving a tap or shower running.

“As a county, we need to better understand how to protect and enhance our precious water resources, so that we can continue to enjoy the vital benefits that flow from it well into the future.

“This change starts now. Our younger generation have the power to be entranced by what they learn in this strategy and relay it onward to those less concerned with the problems that we face.

“But our hope is for everyone to participate in the change. It starts with the small things in your home, which subsequently can have the ability to repeat in every house and have big impacts. We aim to preserve our water for the future together.”

It comes as the Government announced that more than £180m from several water companies – including £50m from Anglian Water – to reduce storm overflow discharges by 2025.

In Essex in 2021, 88 per cent of storm overflows discharged at least once, with 15 per cent discharging more than 50 times, including in some cases upstream of our high-priority nature sites and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Anglian Water last year was hit with a fine of £2.65 million after allowing untreated sewage to overflow into the North Sea following a prosecution brought by the Environment Agency.

Following an appeal hearing on February 9 regarding the incident at Jaywick , the fine was reduced to £300,000 because the judge agreed there was no harm caused to the environment.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter