Land use policy critical for water resource management

Posted: Monday 22nd March 2010

The supply of water is among the major contributions made by the land to UK wellbeing and prosperity, according to a comprehensive report published today by Foresight, the government's future think tank.

Drawing on the work of three hundred specialists in subjects ranging from ecology to planning and forestry to economics, 'Land Use Futures' identifies pressures on land management that mirror those now facing water companies:

- climate change,
- a growing and ageing population with more people living alone,
- demand for low carbon living, and
- rising incomes and expectations about standard of living.

The report suggests as priorities for action: developing a more integrated strategy for quality and supply, including integrated catchment management; and a plan of action to reverse long-term degradation of aquifers by nitrates and other contaminants.

Launching the report, Professor John Beddington, government chief scientist and project director said:

"Many of the current systems and ideas about what is best use of land date back to around the Second World War. A land management system fit for the 21st century needs to draw in the latest science and evidence on how changes in the use and management of land interact to affect people and the natural environment."

Professor Beddington said that land was a unique and versatile asset, but pointed to the importance and difficulty of the decisions that will need to be taken by politicians:

"Many British people want to live in a garden surrounded by greenspace and wildlife.

"Business as usual is not an option over the long-term. The effects of climate change and new pressures on land could escalate, seriously eroding the quality of life."

Barrie Clarke, Water UK Director of Communication and a member of the Land Use Futures Stakeholder Group, said:

"'Land Use Futures' makes a strong case for integrated thinking and 'place-specific' answers the questions facing all land-related services, including water supply.

"The report helps set the direction for water services in the next decade and far beyond. It is recommended reading for policy-makers looking for solutions to pollution and price problems, but required reading for anyone tempted to ignore the connections between water and other essential services and sectors."

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