Climate change means more floods for a drying Thames basin
The Thames Vulnerability Assessment Report prepared by WWF-UK also found dire results for fish and wildlife, the lawns and flowerbeds of the traditional English garden and London’s antiquated sewers and drains.
The 14 million people in the internationally important basin – and the additional two million expected to join them by 2026 – also face a future of water shortages.
“Climate change is likely to result in hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters. Perversely, this means we will suffer from having both more water, and less, with greater risk from flooding and drought,” said WWF-UK freshwater policy advisor, Dr Tom Le Quesne.
Peak rivers flows are predicted to increase by 20% leading to a significant rise in the frequency and severity of surface water flooding, with intense summer rains washing more sediment and pollution into the rivers.
Periods of reduced rainfall over successive years will also threaten the recharge of already over-stressed groundwater reserves.
Other impacts include markedly increased water and insurance costs.
“Taken separately, all the impacts are harmful but taken together they could ultimately destroy an internationally important river system. Policies must therefore be developed that can address droughts, floods, pollution and climate change simultaneously, rather than treating each in isolation,” said Le Quesne.
“Population growth will place further pressure on our already stressed water supplies. We now need to take action to reduce the amount of water each person wastes, lower leakage, and reduce pollution,” explained Le Quesne
WWF-UK Thames programme is supported by major bank HSBC through the global HSBC Climate Partnership, which is involved in similar vulnerability assessments for rivers such as the Yangtze, the Ganaa & the Pantanal.
Peter Bull, Head of HSBC in the Community, who have supported WWF-UK Thames programme, said “Increasing awareness and understanding of the issues which will face us all as a result of climate change is a vital objective of our partnership.”