“Water, water all around and not a drop to drink”

Following on from our post over the growing concerns about the state of the UK’s freshwater resources, in May of this year. A joint report by the Fabian Society and the WWF ‘Running Dry’ has brought in an edge of much needed practicality.

It’s hard to remember in all this rain that the UK experienced its worst drought since 1975 this year with many households experiencing low flow events up and down the country. It is therefore fitting that water companies and the Government are looking to mitigate the situation. The report highlights one of the roles that we, the British public, can play and how our willingness to act is affected by the sources of information we receive.

The question asked was simple; are people willing to pay extra on their annual bills to protect Britain’s rivers?

The survey within Running Dry consisted of 2,400 people in six groups. They were presented with different sets and sources of information pertaining to the use of the freshwater and the impact of extraction on the environment. Information was presented from Governmental sources, Water companies or a mixture of both. Results showed that in every group 40% of people were unwilling to pay additional charges to restore and repair UK Rivers; but generally the more information given on the nature of the environmental damage and schemes of restoration the more people were willing to pay an additional fee. People placed more trust in the Governmental sources of information than water companies. Water companies are due to begin surveys to ascertain what value customers place on this additional service, shortly.

It’s unsurprising that in a time of recession that not everyone is willing to pay additional fees, with wages still at 2005 levels; but what value can we place on the UK’s freshwater ecosystems, systems that have functioned for thousands of years and is only now, under our collective influence, beginning to break?

The BES will shortly be releasing a 12th edition of Ecological Issues to be focused on this issue of water security and the impacts of extreme weather events on the UK’s freshwater ecosystems.