UK rivers could be drier by 2050

Climate change may cause late-summer and early-autumn flows in some of the United Kingdom’s major rivers to drop by as much as 80% in some places by 2050, endangering wildlife and driving up household water bills, the Environment Agency has warned.

Scientists had hoped that, as the seasons become more extreme, increased winter rain would offset droughts created by hotter summers. Based on new data, however, they now think that water gains made in winter will not be enough to compensate for drier summers.

The research, which used projections from the UK Climate Impacts Programme, shows that by 2050 river flows in winter may rise by 10 to 15% in England and Wales. However, river flows in late summer and early autumn could decline by as much as 80% in places, including the Mersey and Severn rivers. These patterns would result in a drop in total annual river flow of up to 15%.

However, some scientists — including Stuart Lane, executive director of the Institute of Hazard and Risk Research at Durham University — point out that water-loss predictions cannot be exact. “[T]hese are average changes and it’s quite possible that the kind of drought scenarios that are being talked about here could be much worse or not as bad on a year-to-year basis,” Lane told the Observer.

See full story