Parts of Britain may be under water after the worst floods in half a century, but a team of top academics from Newcastle and Oxford University is warning that the country is at risk of water shortages that could shut down power stations and paralyse electricity supplies.
“It is difficult to fathom we should start to think about water shortages in the middle of these storms but only two years ago areas of Britain were suffering from severe droughts,” said Ed Byers, a researcher at Newcastle University’s engineering and geosciences department.
“The high dependency on water in electricity generation means there is a real possibility that in just a few decades some power stations may be forced to decrease production or shut down if there are water shortages, which may be expected with changes in climate and a growing population.”
Byers, with another Newcastle colleague and Professor Jim Hall, director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, has been studying the impact on water of the government’s proposed different energy “pathways” taken from the 2011 Carbon Plan.
Their new academic paper makes clear that one Department of Energy and Climate Change option – of using gas or other fossil fuels with high levels of carbon capture and storage (CCS) – could increase fresh water consumption by almost 70%.