England water shortages, head of the Environment Agency is warning.
The impact of climate change, combined with population growth, means the country is facing an “existential threat”, Sir James Bevan told the Waterwise Conference in London.
He wants to see wasting water become “as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby”.
“We all need to use less water and use it more efficiently,” he said.
Sir James Bevan was appointed chief executive of the Environment Agency – the public body responsible for protecting the environment and wildlife in England – in 2015 after a career as a diplomat.
He told his audience that, in around 20 to 25 years, England would reach the “jaws of death – the point at which, unless we take action to change things, we will not have enough water to supply our needs”.
Alongside action being taken by the government, water companies and regulators, Sir James wants the public to use less water, and use it more efficiently.
Currently, people in England use an average of 140 litres of water a day. Sir James is calling on people to cut their usage to 100 litres – the target set by Waterwise, which campaigns for water efficiency.
“In the last few decades we’ve radically changed behaviour on smoking (everybody did it) and seatbelts (nobody wore them),” he is expected to say.
“In the last two years we’ve changed behaviour on plastic. We need water wastage to be as socially unacceptable as blowing smoke in the face of a baby or throwing your plastic bags into the sea.”