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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Climate change means we can no longer take the North’s water for granted, according to new report

Pressure on water supply could put Northern Powerhouse projects at risk, says IPPR North

Politicians in the North must act now or risk new projects failing because of pressure on supplies, according to the leading think tank for the North of England.

Pressures on the supply and demand of water in the North will become much more acute in the next 25 years, say IPPR North.

Of the three Northern regions, Yorkshire and the Humber faces the greatest long-term pressures. Without a reduction in water use among households and businesses, demand for water could start to outstrip supply by 2035.

Successful water management in the North West would enable it to supply water to other regions of England through a water trading scheme, while the North East is expected to have a water surplus for several decades.

However, the new paper, Natural Assets North: Water in the Northern Powerhouse, explains that people, leaders and businesses across the North must work together to ensure that water does not outstrip demand in the region. It identifies five key factors likely to increase pressure on water supply:

  • Climate change, with all Northern regions expected to see significant reductions in rainfall and water flow.
  • Public attitudes to water, with most people still unaware about the need to use water more responsibly in future.
  • Population growth, which would offset some of the gains made by more efficient household water use.
  • Growing demand for energy, including plans to reduce net carbon emissions via methods to capture and store carbon – which are particularly water intensive.
  • The ability of the water companies to deliver on their water management plans for the next 25 years. Current plans will require an “unprecedented increase” in efforts to reduce leakage, the report says.

The report calls for the North’s leaders to take shared responsibility for ensuring the demand for water remains sustainable in coming decades.

It says they should make a concerted effort, together with the water sector, to minimise future demand for water across industry, businesses and households. This could include encouraging much more widespread use of water meters to measure household consumption and ‘greywater’ systems that enable wastewater from houses and offices to be re-used.

Report author and Research Fellow at IPPR North Jack Hunter said:

“In the face of climate breakdown, none of us can afford to take water for granted, and this is as true in the North as it is elsewhere in the country.

 “This is a shared problem that requires shared solutions. Water companies need to deliver on their plans to dramatically reduce leakages and households, businesses and political leaders all need to treat water much more responsibly in future”



  1. Jack Hunter, report author and Research Fellow at IPPR North, is available for interview.
  2. The IPPR North paper, Natural Assets North: Water in the Northern Powerhouse by Jack Hunter, will be published at 0001 on 29th August 2019. It will be available for download at: 
  3. The paper is the second in a series which explores the relationship between natural assets, people and the economy in the North, identifying the North’s natural capital assets and opportunities to demonstrate and increase their value. The first paper looked at the contribution made by North’s upland areas and can be found at
  4. IPPR North is the leading think-tank for the north of England, developing bold ideas for a stronger economy and prosperous places and people. For more information, visit