Sunday 23rd October 2016                 Change text size:

UK farmers at risk of water shortages by 2020, says climate watchdog

Matt Buck  via flickr

Protecting ecosystems and promoting sustainable farming practices will be crucial in mitigating the effects of climate change, according to a new report. However, water scarcity and soil fertility issues could severely affect the UK’s food production.

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says Britain is set to see drier summers by 2020, and without measures, farmers could experience water shortages of up to 50%.

Its report, called Managing the land in a changing climate, says that although higher temperature would mean that farmers could grow more crops, food production would be at risk because of water scarcity, loss of soil fertility and threats from pests and diseases.

Sustainable land use and flood protection policies will play a key role, as well as the conservation of areas dedicated to wildlife, which the report says is the best way to make ecosystems “cope with the additional pressures from climate change”.

It warns that many areas in England already have water resources that are under pressure, and the situation could worsen because of the effects of climate change and the growing population’s increasing demand.

If current trends were allowed to continue, a gap could emerge between water supply and demand. In a dry year in the 2020s the gap could be nearly as large as total current agricultural abstraction of 120 billion litres per year”, the report says.

The CCC suggests that government and farmers should work to ensure effective legislation on one side and sustainable land and water management on the other.

Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said, “Climate change poses a devastating threat to our environment, food supplies and security, which could trigger future economic crises.

“Urgent government measures are needed to ensure the nation is better prepared to deal with the consequences of climate change, along with action to tackle the cause – starting with a genuine commitment to decarbonise the UK power sector by 2030.”

Further reading:

Food supplies threatened as population growth and water shortages collide

EU subsidies given to British farmers are shortchanging the public, says study

Climate change may affect national and global security

Ranking large firms on water would help ‘drive change’

World Water Day: long-term opportunities in investing in water

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