Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Water Poverty"? Britain?

The Brits have come up with a new phrase, "water poverty."  It is the situation when rising water rates render the essential resource unaffordable to the poor.  This is standard fare in some impoverished places like India and a fair bit of the Third World but Britain?  Really?  According to The Guardian, that's a big "yeah."

A report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one of the largest social policy research-and-development charities, says that low-income households are at particular risk because of new methods being introduced to increase the efficient use and distribution of water. It defines "  water poverty"   as when households spend 3% or more of their income on water bills.

The report, Vulnerability to Heat Waves and Drought: Adaptation to Climate Change, by the environmental consultancy AEA and a team from the University of Surrey, warns that water is becoming scarce as a result of climate change and increased consumer demand. An estimated four million households in the UK are already "  water poor",  according to the report, and the situation is likely to worsen, with bills predicted to rise by 5% a year for some customers.

" The issue of water poverty – just like fuel poverty – is extremely important, especially as we start to look into the future and consider how climate change is going to impact society,"  said the report's lead author, Magnus Benzie. The south-west of England, where bills are on average 43% higher than in the rest of the country, is set to be particularly affected as the UK becomes significantly drier in coming decades, according to the report.

Water poverty is expected to be acute in "  urban heat islands"  – built-up environments that retain heat more than surrounding areas.

Failures to anticipate the threat posed by climate change can be fatal. The authors point to the heatwave across Europe in 2003 that led to more than 30,000 premature deaths.

Climate change and how we adapt to it will impact upon disadvantaged groups in different ways,"  said Josh Stott, research manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. " This report highlights the need for policy-makers and agencies to consider these social justice issues when preparing and building resilience to climate change, to improve the outcomes for vulnerable people."

Fortunately for Canadians we won't have to deal with any uncomfortable much less painful climate change impacts.   That much is obvious from the utter indifference to climate change shown by our political leadership of all stripes.  For those more interested in transforming Canada into a first class petro-state, the last thing they want to acknowledge is climate change.

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