Last week the second of three Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports was published, with a focus on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. The first report looked at the science of climate change whilst the third, to be published shortly, will be about mitigating climate change.

Last Monday’s report was contributed to by 309 authors from 70 countries and has 50,492 review comments. The new report updates of the earlier version published in 2007 with the latest studies and evidence gathered on climate change. All of the statements made have confidence levels attributed to them, so readers can see where there is consensus amongst the authors about evidence, and where evidence is less strong. The video above explains the themes covered in the report.

Does the report have any new implications for us at Anglian Water? Whilst it’s an interesting read there’s nothing in the report at odds with our own analysis of the impact of climate change on our work or what we need to do about it. Here are a few examples of water-related issues the report covers, and what we’re already doing, or planning to do:

In many regions, changes in the amount of rain or melting snow and ice are altering hydrological systems, affecting water resources in terms of quantity and quality (medium confidence).
Our Water Resources Management Plan recognises the risks posed by climate change, as well as population growth, on the availability of water and demand from customers. As a result we’re aiming to reduce leakage and consumption to record low levels, and to enhance the water network so we can move water from areas of surplus to areas of deficit.

Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability (very high confidence).
The vulnerability of our water and water recycling centres to weather-related impacts depends on their location. We understand some of these impacts, such as flooding from rivers, and we are able to plan for them. Other impacts are less well understood or difficult to model and here we are focusing on improving our knowledge and understanding.

Risk of death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods … due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.
Our soft coastline is vulnerable to storms. The storm surge late last year was good reminder of this and I saw first hand the impact it had on some of our assets. With a good understanding of the risks and impacts we face, we can design our assets to be increasingly resilient.

Climate change is projected to reduce raw water quality and pose risks to drinking water quality even with conventional treatment, due to interacting factors. We treat and supply water to a very high standard, but the quality of water we take from the environment is subject to all sorts of impacts. With climate change these could get worse. For example stormier weather could increase the amount of pollutant-carrying sediment that’s washed into water. As well as traditional treatment we are increasingly working with land managers in the region to identify what they can do to help maintain and even enhance water quality. This is called catchment management. The sorts of management that benefits water quality includes fencing cattle away from rivers to reduce the amount of bare soil on the river bank, substituting out products, like pesticides, that are difficult for us to remove with others, and sowing grass strips between water courses and crops to reduce the amount of chemical getting into the water.

We have done a lot of work to understand the impacts and vulnerability of our assets and how this could affect our customers. We’re taking action where we can and this latest IPCC report is a good reminder to us about the importance of adaptation and preparedness in keeping ahead of the game.