John Fell Award to explore water scarcity and management

Dr Kevin Grecksch, Research Officer in the Regulation of Water Resources, has been awarded funds to help investigate strategies and options for the UK's large industrial consumers.

New funding will enable additional research to shed light on a new and underexplored issue in water resource management: how large UK water consumers such as thermal power stations, pulp and paper mills, and the food and drinks industry prepare for water shortages which are becoming increasingly frequent as part of a changing climate.

These industrial abstractors are often forgotten in academic research and policy debates which are focused on domestic consumption of water. Yet, water is used by industry either directly for manufacturing products or for washing, cooling, heating during production processes. Hence, businesses need water in order to maintain supply chains and production lines.

Water consumers are generally discussed in a general sense, with limited distinction between the public and private sectors, and the different types of large private industrial abstractors who have different needs and organisational histories in dealing with water. According to the latest report by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (2016, p.37):

some water intensive industries are clustered in areas at risk of water scarcity such as paper manufacturing in Kent and chemicals manufacturing in the northwest of England.

This research aims to answer the question whether those industries have strategies and plans to (i) react to drought and water scarcity and (ii) if they already apply any proactive measures, to prevent potential disruptions from drought and water scarcity. It will therefore locate and analyse academic and grey literature, as well as industry positions on drought and water scarcity.

The outcome will be a report aimed both at academics as well as practitioners comparing the approaches in literature and across the different industries highlighting strengths, e.g. innovative drought and water scarcity management options such as greywater (re)use, deficits, i.e. non-action with regard to drought and water scarcity management and areas for further research.