Building resilience in the face of the effects of climate change

Climate change will continue to make extreme weather events such as floods and drought more likely in future years, and cities, towns and villages must be resilient. Decisive policy action is needed to mitigate these risks. About 5 million properties in the UK are currently at risk of flooding. Protection from floods in the UK over the past years has too often been reactive rather than proactive. Ideally, no one should be exposed to flooding. Flooding has severe impacts on quality of life, particularly mental health. A long term strategy for flood protection would allow a nationwide standard of resilience to flooding, with catchment based plans. These plans should evaluate the full range of options including traditional flood defences, ‘green infrastructure’ (whether natural flood management or sustainable drainage systems), individual property measures and spatial planning.

The Commission has also published a standalone report, Preparing for a drier future: England’s water infrastructure needs, which sets out a twin-track approach to manage water supply and demand. The government, working with Ofwat and water companies, needs to ensure the capacity of the water supply system in England is increased to boost the country’s resilience to drought whilst also managing demand and reducing leakage. This can be achieved through: delivering a national water transfer network and additional water supply (for example reservoirs or water re use) by the 2030s; and halving leakage by 2050, together with greater smart metering.

NIA recommendations

The Commission recommends that government should set out a strategy to deliver a nationwide standard of resilience to flooding with an annual likelihood of 0.5 per cent by 2050 where this is feasible. A higher standard of 0.1 per cent should be provided for densely populated areas where the costs per  household are lower. To deliver the strategy:

  • By the end of 2019, government should put in place a rolling 6 year funding programme in line with the funding profile set out by the Commission. This should enable efficient planning and delivery of projects and address the risks from all sources of flooding
  • The Environment Agency should update plans for all catchments and coastal cells in England before the end of 2023. These should identify how
    risk can be managed most effectively using a combination of measures including green and grey infrastructure, spatial planning and property
    level measures
  • Water companies and local authorities should work together to publish
    joint plans to manage surface water flood risk by 2022
  • The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and
    planning authorities should ensure that from 2019 all new development
    is resilient to flooding with an annual likelihood of 0.5 per cent for its
    lifetime and does not increase risk elsewhere.

The Commission recommends that government should ensure that plans are in place to deliver additional supply and demand reduction of at least 4,000 Ml/day. Action to deliver this twin-track approach should start immediately:

  • Ofwat should launch a competitive process by the end of 2019, complementing the Price Review, so that at least 1,300 Ml/day is provided through (i) a national water network and (ii) additional supply infrastructure by the 2030s
  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should set an objective for the water industry to halve leakage by 2050, with Ofwat agreeing 5 year commitments for each company (as part of the regulatory cycle) and reporting on progress
  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should enable companies to implement compulsory metering by the 2030s beyond water stressed areas, by amending regulations before the end of 2019 and requiring all companies to consider systematic roll out of smart meters as a first step in a concerted campaign to improve water efficiency.