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Water shortage research

08/22/2006 11:04:47

Will Medd saving water
Dr Will Medd saving water

This summer’s drought has once again raised serious questions about normal or excessive water use. Is the way you wash up normal? Is taking a relaxing bath at the end of a long day a necessity or a luxury? What every day practices using water could you live without – washing the car, your clothes, the wake-up shower?

The current drought also brings into sharp focus water company strategies for dealing with demand - how do managers respond to daily fluctuations in real and expected demand and how do current systems work in the context of new pressures?

Questions like this will be asked as part of a new research project led by Lancaster University which will find out exactly how householders and water companies in the south east are experiencing drought and what possibilities exist for future demand management practice for water companies as well as households.

Funded by the ESRC, UKWIR, Defra, OFWAT , the Environment Agency, Anglian Water, Essex and Suffolk Water, Folkestone and Dover Water, Three Valleys Water and South East Water, Drought and Demand will involve a real time qualitative analysis of the 2006 drought in the south east of England.The project aims to reveal the assumptions about current demand, and to discover how far drought might influence approaches towards using and managing water in the future.

Project leader Dr Will Medd from Lancaster University’s Centre for Sustainable Water Management explained: “With over 13 million people across the south east of England already subject to hosepipe bans the 2006 drought is already re-opening questions about alternatives to current systems of water management and demand forecasting.

“This project will help us understand the everyday practices of households. People don’t just bathe to keep clean, for instance, they bathe for relaxation too. We will be asking specific questions about people’s everyday habits and routines to find out which practices people may be likely to change and which they would be reluctant to change.

“The water-using practices that people may be willing to modify could go a long way towards conserving supplies, particularly in the south east where hundreds of thousands of new homes are planned to be built. The occupants of those houses will all need water and will be an extra strain on the existing service.

“We will also be looking at how the water companies assume and structure their responses to demand to see if they are over-estimating demand at particular times to see if there is any wastage there.”

The research will be conducted over 1 year and involves in-depth qualitative interviews with 30 households, water resource management teams, and representatives from key government and regulatory bodies.