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Water supply and demand management

Water shortages are an impending risk for the UK. Parts of the country face a significant risk from drought, while neighbouring regions have surplus water. In its 2017 climate change risk assessment, the Committee on Climate Change highlighted shortages in water supply as one of five priority climate change risks that needed stronger policies and urgent action. Research commissioned by the Committee estimated the demand for water in England will exceed supply by between 1.1 billion and 3.1 billion litres per day by the 2050s, depending on the extent of climate change and population growth.

In this National Audit report, we set out the challenges facing the water industry in England and assess how Defra is tackling them through its oversight of water regulators and the water companies. The report is both retrospective, looking at how effectively the government has achieved its objectives up to now, and forward-looking, examining how prepared it is for the greater challenges it faces in the future as a result of climate change and population growth.