Scotland Considers Shipping Water to Drought-Stricken England

drought water transportation photo

Photo via AndyRob via Flickr CC

Despite the overall impression that England is a rainy place, there are areas in with drought is taking its toll. The country already imports around two-thirds of its water in the form of products, but it may one day start importing water more directly from its neighbor to the north - at least, that's the possibility according to Mike Cantlay, the convenor of Loch Lomond national park and chairman of the tourism agency VisitScotland, who stated that Scotland's plentiful water supply could become an export commodity should supplies of water in England continue go down and costs go up. But is exporting water really a helpful move?The Guardian reports that as areas of England dry up, the transportation of water across the UK is gaining more attention. A national water grid has been analyzed by the Environment Agency and engineering organizations, but the most practical and cost-effective solution so far has been looking at regional grids, primarily shipping water from Wales to western England.

However, as northern England faces more droughts, Scotland is looking at how it can capitalize on the transportation of water as a commodity.

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According to the Guardian, "[T]he Met Office warned that extreme droughts on a scale equal to 1976 - when crops worth £500m were lost and some rivers nearly ran dry - could occur 10 times more frequently by 2100 under the most severe climate change scenarios, occurring once every decade." Looking at the current structures that carry water from one lake in the national part to Glasgow, supplying the city with its needed 40 million gallons a day, similar architecture could be created to cart water from other Scottish lakes to northern England.

However, it's an expensive move, and the impacts of diverting that much water, rather than implementing serious changes in water use habits, could have some undesirable consiquences. Scotland need only look at how diverting water from the Colorado river to the southwest has impacted the ecology of the western United States. For long-term sustainable water use, changes in habits - including pricing water according to its true cost - need to come before changes in sources.

Still, Scotland is doing what many countries with plentiful water are doing - weighing how much of a boon for the economy water can be as the fresh water crisis tightens down.

Calling for an "overarching vision" of how Scotland's water resources could be better used, for recreation, tourism, energy and industry, Cantlay added: "There's a potential question there: will Scotland sell water? I don't know but if it is going to sell water, the potential be so huge in terms of benefits, we need to know where we can do it and how we can do it."

Thankfully, a spokesperson from The Environment Agency has countered Cantlay's assertions, saying, "Pumping water around uses a lot of energy so this would also increase greenhouse gases," a spokesman said. "There are better, cheaper solutions much closer to home. These include making better use of the water we have."

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