Water security

Thames Barrier. Click to enlarge.
How will the effects of climate change impact on water security in the region?
What are the implications on society and the environment?

One of the major geological units beneath the Thames Basin is the Chalk, which represents one of the largest aquifers within the UK and is therefore an essential water resource for the Thames region. This not only includes water resources for several essential services, including public drinking water, but also plays a major contribution to river flow and wetland habitats within the catchment.

The security of this water resource is under threat from a number of factors including changing climate, particularly sea-level rise and its effect on groundwater processes, as well as demand from an increasing population and urbanisation.

One of the major challenges in securing future water resources for the region is understanding how groundwater processes will respond to climate change and what the potential impacts of these changes may be. This knowledge will help devise suitable strategies for future development and enable policy-makers to make more informed decisions.

Whole-system approach

Considering the system as a whole, integrating processes that operate at all levels of the hydrosphere from the soil through to the regional geological framework will provide an opportunity to interface with, and attempt to improve the quality of, predictive models of the wider environment. Applying this understanding in the context of social models has the potential to improve policy on groundwater management at a range of levels.

More specific questions that may need to be answered:

  • How can security of water supply be achieved under the combined pressures of population increase (i.e. human demand), contamination and competition from the natural environment?
  • How can sustainable flows be maintained in rivers?
  • Are the moisture release characteristics of chalk soil substantially different from silicate derived soils and how does this vary with carbonate content?
  • What is the resilience to drought within the Thames basin and how would water resources stand up to, for example, a ‘three-winter drought’ or similar?
  • How can river and groundwater quality be managed to achieve sustainability?
  • What impact will long term environmental change (including climate change) have on water resources in the Basin?

« Changing land use  |  Protecting coastal communities and habitats  »