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Droughts? Climate Breakdown? Even the NAO Have Lost The Plot Now.

March 26, 2020

By Paul Homewood



h/t Joe Public


 We are used to dissembling from the likes of the Met Office and Environment Agency.

It comes to something though when the National Audit Office is economical with the truth:





England is in danger of experiencing droughts within 20 years unless action is taken to combat the impact of the climate crisis on water availability, the public spending watchdog says.

The National Audit Office (NAO), in a report published on Wednesday, says some parts of England, especially the south-east, are at risk of running out of water owing to decreased rainfall and a need to cut the amount taken from natural waterways.

Water companies will have to reduce the quantity of water they take out of rivers, lakes and the ground by more than 1bn litres a day, creating huge shortfalls in the coming decades, the NAO warned.

Parliament’s auditor predicted that 4bn litres of additional water supply would be needed each day by 2050 to counter the growing risk of drought from the climate emergency.

The total supply is forecast to drop by 7% by 2045 because of the climate crisis and the need to scale back the amount of water taken out of England’s waterways and soils.

The amount removed will need to be slashed by almost 500m litres a day to ensure sustainable biodiversity can continue, while drier weather is expected to see a 600m litre daily reduction in rainfall.

According to NAO figures, the daily demand for water in England and Wales is 14bn litres, with the equivalent of 3bn litres of that lost through leakage. People on average use 143 litres of water every 24 hours.

Gareth Davies, comptroller and auditor general of the NAO, criticised ministers in his report for failing to lead on the issue of water sustainability. He said personal water consumption had risen every year for the past five years.




First of all, there is no evidence whatsoever that rainfall is declining in southeast England. The very slight trend (red line) is actually upwards since 1862:




The driest year by a long way was 1921, followed by 1973 and 1863. Of the top 20 dry years, only one occurred in the last decade, in 2011. Only four have appear in the list since 1973.





But what about the other claims?

The Comptroller claims that personal water consumption has risen every year for the past five years. But this is not the whole story.

According to DEFRA’s latest figures, public water supply is no higher now than it was in 2008 and before, when the population was lower.



Average personal water consumption is said to be 143 litres a day, but in 2008 it was 146 litres.




The one area where water consumption has significantly increased recently is electricity supply, which now appears to be back to 2001 levels. I must admit, this makes no sense to me at all. I would have assumed the drop after 2001 reflected the switch from coal to gas, which logically should still be a factor.



Either way, we are not running short of water because of some imaginary climate emergency.

  1. grammarschoolman permalink
    March 26, 2020 6:12 pm

    Off-topic again, but according to this piece, more climate change means more pandemics. Huh?

    (It also implies that the saintly Stephen Pollard is an idiot, which puts it immediately beyond the pale, as far as I’m concerned.)

  2. Bloke no longer down the pub permalink
    March 26, 2020 6:55 pm

    They tried pushing this line a few years back, maybe around the 2011 dry year, but then it rained and they forgot about it.
    One option being put forward.

  3. Up2snuff permalink
    March 26, 2020 6:57 pm

    As far as water is concerned, should not Gareth Davies, our Auditor General be criticising Ministers for failing to lead on population sustainability, not water sustainability? That latter is the job of the privatised Water Companies.

  4. Jonathan Scott permalink
    March 26, 2020 7:49 pm

    Paul. You are being to kind. I refer to your lead in regarding the NAO “economical” with the truth. Since when did you start calling barefaced lying “being economical with the truth”? The bigger story here is that they have been compromised because they are now pursuing a political agenda on behalf of…..who exactly?

  5. Gamecock permalink
    March 26, 2020 8:04 pm

    ‘He called on the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) to co-ordinate a national approach to encouraging consumers and public bodies to reduce their water usage in an attempt to avoid water shortages in the coming decades.’

    National approach. Give control of your water supplies to the national government.

    Millions will die.

    ‘criticised ministers in his report for failing to lead on the issue of nationalizing water sources.’

    Fixed it.

    ‘Sustainability’ means intermittent availability. Like sustainable energy.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      March 29, 2020 12:29 pm

      In an SF book I was reading recently, the protagonist referred to, and explained, the concept of “water empires” which got control of all of the water within their reach. Such empires could last for many centuries, controlling everything (because water is essential TO everything), until they were eventually defeated from an outside influence. Once such a water empire has been created, there was nothing in history that shows that such an empire could be taken down from anything internal.
      So, basically, handing over control of ones water is NOT a good idea!

  6. Joe Public permalink
    March 26, 2020 8:06 pm

    “The one area where water consumption has significantly increased recently is electricity supply, which now appears to be back to 2001 levels. I must admit, this makes no sense to me at all.”

    From “Water supply and resilience and infrastructure
    Environment Agency advice to Defra October 2015”

    “Overall, the power industry takes a much larger share of all actual licensed abstraction (approximately 45%): the vast majority is for hydropower (98%), but this only produces approximately 0.5% of England’s electricity.”

    Click to access ea-analysis-water-sector.pdf

    • March 26, 2020 8:12 pm

      But has hydro power increased over the years?

      • Joe Public permalink
        March 26, 2020 8:32 pm

        Don’t know.

        But I was surprised to learn “… the vast majority is for hydropower (98%)”

      • paul weldon permalink
        March 26, 2020 9:02 pm

        But surely hydropower puts back what it ‘extracts’? That being the case, then surely the figures are meaningless? Or there is a method of balancing what is put back, and the highering /lowering of the reservoirs behind the dams might explain the fluctuation in extraction figures given?

      • March 26, 2020 9:39 pm

        Which is why I don’t believe it is for hydro, Paul

    • paul weldon permalink
      March 27, 2020 8:28 am

      From the source Joe Public has posted, perhaps this paragraph explains the situation:

      3.3. Power generation The government has stated that carbon capture and storage (CCS) ‘has a critical role to play in reducing emissions in the UK’30 Plants fitted with CCS technology consume from 44% to 84% more water per unit of power than traditional fossil fuel fired power stations, due to an increase in cooling and process uses31.

      CCS then has negative effects on the environment as well!

  7. jack broughton permalink
    March 26, 2020 8:11 pm

    Maybe this is why HS2 was passed: it could bring water from the uncivilised northern reaches to the underpopulated, cultured south of England. The Scots could even sell them some of their increasing green-rainfall!

    Sad to see the NAO publishing this kind of junk.

  8. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 26, 2020 8:37 pm

    A view of the water footprint (WF) of electricity by energy source is shown on p.7 here:-

    Click to access Mekonnen-et-al-2015.pdf

    ‘Firewood’ has the largest WF, but I doubt that alone could explain the recent significant increase in the WF for the electricity supply industry shown in your abstractions table?

    Anyway, as said a million times before, the main reason for any shortcomings in water supply are massively increasing populations in some areas (esp. SE). There is no significant change in overall rainfall, if they still want to assert that it is more erratic, that problem can be solved with forward planning:- storage and distribution.

  9. StephenP permalink
    March 26, 2020 10:27 pm

    IIRC it was the EU that put the kibosh on building more reservoirs in the UK and said that we had to reduce demand for water.
    Google: European Commission COM 2007 414 Final

  10. bobn permalink
    March 27, 2020 12:44 am

    Will these predicted droughts occur during the predicted floods (see last months panic stories) or will the predicted floods be occuring during the predicted droughts?

  11. Ian Cook permalink
    March 27, 2020 8:26 am

    And as we are no longer under the control of the supranational EU (wouldn’t a world government be a good idea?), we can now build the number of reservoirs needed to support the population we have, instead of creating the artificial shortages that the EU ordered.

  12. March 27, 2020 10:57 am

    It was only the other day that we were being told that the warming oceans would mean increased precipitation and that we would all be flooded in the future! Harold Wilson said a week was a long time in politics, in the global warming world it seems like a lifetime.

  13. March 27, 2020 12:23 pm

    Is it too much to ask that more effort might be put in to repairing leaks? “Parliament’s auditor predicted that 4bn litres of additional water supply would be needed each day by 2050” and “the daily demand for water in England and Wales is 14bn litres, with the equivalent of 3bn litres of that lost through leakage”.

  14. March 27, 2020 12:27 pm

    Discussion of, and actual, water shortages/droughts/hose pipe bans were not uncommon when I lived in Kent in the late 90s early 2000s. Since 1970, 3 reservoirs have been constructed in the SE. The last was in 1976 in Greater London, one was built in Kent in 1975 and another in Greater London in 1970.

  15. dennisambler permalink
    March 27, 2020 1:00 pm Search for drought events…

    1114 “Remarkable drought in the Thames Valley on October 10th, 1114: ……Simeon of Durham…records: ‘ In this year, the river which bears the name of Medway, for a distance of some miles, receded so far from its bed, on the sixth day before the ides of October, that in the very middle of it not even the smallest vessel could make the slightest way. On the same day, the river Thames was also sensible of a similar decrease; for between the bridge and royal tower, and even under the bridge, so greatly was the water of the river diminished, that an innumerable multitude of men and boys forded it on foot, the water scarcely reaching their knees. This ebb of the tide continued from the middle of the preceding night until dark on the following night.'”

    (summer) A dry summer; a great fire in London.
    (summer) Another dry summer in which the Thames was so low in London that women and children could wade across it.

    1344 August Herefordshire and Worcestershire: “1343-1345: Widespread and frequent droughts accompanied by summer heatwaves and strong thirsty winds. Corn was unusually scarce, streams dried out and rivers were at very low levels with cracks up to 5 inches wide in their beds by August 1344.”

    1516 hot & dry (London/South). More generally, there was a drought with very little rain falling for 9 months.

    1540- For England, there are several references to a hot summer, with great heat & drought; also many deaths due to the ‘Ague’. In this year (1540), there was so little water flowing in the Seine through Paris that people were able to walk across. …the lower part of the Rhine from Cologne into the Netherlands is ‘dry’ – it didn’t rain over Italy, with Rome dry for something like 9 months. Forest/city fires, with many people dying of heat stroke, heart failure etc.

    1541: another drought year with rivers drying up (must have been quite extreme given that the previous year was notably dry). Cattle / other livestock dying for lack of water: dysentery killed thousands.

    And so on, to the present day…..

  16. Ray Sanders permalink
    March 27, 2020 2:13 pm

    As we all know full well the dominant greenhouse gas is water vapour. The AGW bullshit argument runs that increasing CO2 levels causes slight warming and that the Clausius Clayperon relation means that the water vapour holding capacity of the atmosphere increases by about 7% for every 1 °C rise in temperature causing yet more warming with a repeating cycle. We also know that water vapour has a very short residency time in the atmosphere and condenses forming clouds and subsequently precipitation.
    So here we are living on an island on the eastern edge of the North Atlantic with predominantly South Westerly winds tracking over thousands of miles of warming oceans with an atmosphere holding more water vapour …………..but hey presto we are going to have more droughts. You simply could not make this bullshit up but then again someone has!

  17. Ivan permalink
    March 27, 2020 3:18 pm

    The journalist is not accurately telling us what the NAO report says. When do they? The journalist makes it look like the NAO has formed the opinion that increasing drought will reduce our water supply. But all the NAO has done is collect other people’s opinions on that, and report them as is.

    The NAO report is at this link.

    NAO says: (Executive summary para 12)
    “Total water supply is forecast to decrease by 7% by 2045 as a result of climate change and the need to reduce abstraction to restore sustainability. … A reduction of 480 million litres per day is needed nationally by 2045 to restore existing abstraction to sustainable levels. Drier weather is forecast to further reduce supplies by 600 million litres per day.”

    When NAO says “is forecast” what it means that these were the forecasts the water companies gave it (see Figure 2 in the main report). It is not the NAO’s forecast, unlike what the journalist would have you believe.

    As far as I can see, the NAO has not made a critical study of those forecasts, it has just taken them as read. In the early part of the report (paras 1.2 to 1.9) it cherry picks a few bits of info from the CCC and the NIC indicating a reduction in water supply. Then it presents the water company forecasts uncritically (Figure 2).

    If I was a water company, I might like a forecast of reducing water supply due to climate change, because then the regulator would let me take money from customers to spend on improving the water supply, and I could earn a return on it. So maybe there is a criticism that NAO should not have taken these forecasts quite at face value as it seems to have done.

    • March 27, 2020 9:26 pm

      It is the NAO’s job to check the information they have been given.

      The clue is in the name – AUDIT!!

  18. March 27, 2020 3:26 pm

    Didn’t they say the same thing 20 years ago? The NE of England where I live was supposed to have vineyards by now, but I am still buying wine from supermarkets. Same drivel, different decade!

  19. Steve Johnson permalink
    March 27, 2020 4:03 pm

    “The one area where water consumption has significantly increased recently is electricity supply, which now appears to be back to 2001 levels”

    Er, I’m not sure of the point being made. However, didn’t domestic washing machines change around that time, taking in cold water for both washing and rinsing? I certainly noticed my quarterly electricity consumption ramped up after necessarily swapping ‘old faithful’ for a (so-called) ‘economy’ model some 3 years ago. It took a year to suss that a possible reason was that the machine took in COLD water for washing – which then had to be heated by electricity – rather than hot water pre-heated by gas.

    After a year of that, I was suspecting this was costing me c. £100pa in increased KW electricity consumption (with a barely noticeable drop in gas consumption):. So I tried a cunning plan, involving connecting a removable hosepipe to the hot water tap on the adjacent sink to take in water for washing, but then back to cold for rinsing.

    Funny old thing – the electricity bills have reduced by c. £100pa (with a barely noticeable increase in gas cost). OK, it’s a tad fiddly to fix the hosepipe and £7 connector to the hot tap for every wash. So payback in <4 weeks? So speaking as a tight-fisted Yorkshireman, what's not to like?

  20. March 27, 2020 4:24 pm

    the growing risk of drought from the climate emergency — really?

    Climate change to bring heavier rainfall events
    Posted on 23 March, 2020 by Met Office Press Office

  21. dennisambler permalink
    March 28, 2020 12:17 am

    Climate change means the weather will be hotter or colder, wetter or drier. 2018

    “Summers as warm as the one just past, are likely to be very common, with a 50% chance of occurring.” Or not, as the case may be.

    Isn’t that a bit like tossing a coin?

  22. dfhunter permalink
    March 29, 2020 11:20 pm

    get the red arrows pilots to push the jet stream over a bit, they have nothing else to do at the moment anyway 🙂

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