Pollution is the greatest concern to UK’s water supply above drought and flooding, new research suggests

Research published today by WSP has shown that from a survey of 1,000 consumers, pollution is felt to be the greatest concern to UK water supply, above flooding and drought.

The UK public is most concerned about pollution as a threat to the UK’s water supply, new research from engineering professional services consultancy WSP shows today.

A new survey of 1,000 UK consumers showed three-quarters (79%) of respondents are concerned about pollution threatening the UK’s water supply, followed by flooding (70%) and droughts (49%).

Hero image v3 (1)

Concern about flooding and drought shows increased public awareness of the effect of climate change on the UK’s water supply, which experts at WSP say could be mitigated by effective storage infrastructure.

Mike Woolgar, Strategic Growth Director of Water at WSP, says: “We can see that UK consumers are becoming more aware of flooding risks with the events earlier in the year but as we  continue these current warmer temperatures, there may be a shift in concern towards drought and potentially restrictions on use in some areas of the country

“Water storage in the right places, whether to reduce flooding or ensure adequate water supplies during dry periods, could help the broader water sector to address these challenges. Clever use of more dispersed storage, for example, could help to reduce the amount of water needed in the energy intensive process of moving supply from place to place, and thus addressing the UK’s net zero challenge.”

Over a third of respondents (34%) said they would pay 10% more on their water bill for better tap water, the survey showed, highlighting the challenge faced by the water industry to assure the public that the UK has some of the highest quality tap water in the world.

When asked by how much they would be willing to increase their water bill to secure the UK’s water supply against specific threats, a third (33%) of respondents said they would pay above 10% to protect against pollution.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office said that England could face droughts within 20 years unless significant action is taken to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis on water availability. They also suggested that 4bn litres of additional water supply would be needed each day by 2050 to counter the growing risk of imbalance between reliable supplies and growing demand

Mark Carlisle, Director of Water at WSP, says: “From our research, we can see that there is a challenge from the industry to create a behavioural change by heightening the awareness of climate change on supply availability and water quality as a component of the UK’s transition to a net zero society, aiding a reduction in the energy demands associated with the treatment and transfer of water.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to the UK’s water and wastewater system and our infrastructure needs to be resilient to future shocks."

View full research results

Additional data from the research:

  • 62% said the Government should introduce an environmental levy on bottled water and reinvest it in improving the UK’s water supply.
  • 34% of respondents feel motivated to use less water to do something good for the environment and 15% would feel motivated by a reward for using less water
  • Turning off the tap when brushing teeth is the most practiced water-saving method (70%), with other UK consumers choosing to capture rain for use in the garden/household (39%), shorter shower times (57%). One in ten (10%) of respondents said they don’t’ feel the need to conserve water
  • If water became scarce, however, all respondents felt responsible to conserve water, and most respondents would avoid using a hosepipe (53%)

 Industry experts from Water Resources South EastWaterwise and Northumbrian Water Group have provided further insight and analysis of the results

Read the interviews

For further information, please contact:

Katie Brown, Senior PR Executive


020 3057 2228 / 07899776923 

About WSP

WSP is one of the world's leading engineering professional services consulting firms. We are dedicated to our local communities and propelled by international brainpower. We are technical experts and strategic advisors including engineers, technicians, scientists, planners, surveyors and environmental specialists, as well as other design, program and construction management professionals. We design lasting solutions in the Property & Buildings, Transportation & Infrastructure, Environment, Industry, Resources (including Mining and Oil & Gas) and Power & Energy sectors as well as project delivery and strategic consulting services.

With more than 8,200 talented people in the UK and approximately 49,500 globally, we engineer projects that will help societies grow for lifetimes to come. WSP has been involved in many high-profile UK projects including the re-development of London Bridge Station and Quarter, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, HS2, Transport for the North Strategic Development Corridor studies, One Blackfriars and the Shard.