Hydrology and water resources management in East Anglia and north west England in the context of climate and socio-economic change
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Future water resource management is of primary importance to society, economy and the environment. Planning for climate change and adapting to those changes, which requires an understanding of the complex consequences of climate change for the hydrology and human and environmental uses of water, is important for a sustainable future. This research study holistically explored possible implications of global climate change and regional socioeconomic change on water resource management in the contrasting regions of East Anglia and North West England. A model was developed to estimate the impacts on the catchment hydrology and on the robustness of the regional water resources system as a consequence of future changes. For a range of plausible futures, the hydrological responses are mainly affected by changes in climate, whereas the impacts on water resources are primarily determined by socio-economic factors that can exacerbate or ameliorate the impacts of climate. Under economically-focused futures, water demand increases at the expense of the environment’s allocation of water, and the water quality is deteriorated, which compromises current environmental legislative requirements. Under environmentally-focused futures the environment is protected but at the expense of society and the economy. East Anglia is generally more vulnerable than North West England because water supply is scarcer, river flows are lower and it has a much larger arable agricultural area; e.g. under most futures there is a deficit between the water supply and demand. Anticipatory adaptation options within the context of the storylines of each socio-economic scenario were generally successful in managing water demand and supply and avoiding conflicts between the water users. This study illustrates the importance of regional integrated assessments which allow for future socio-economic changes in evaluating the impacts of climate change on the hydrology, water environment and water resources.