How we’re adapting to the impacts of climate change

COP26 is here and as conversations about reducing emissions take place between world leaders for the next few days, there is another topic that is increasing in importance: adaptation.

Climate change adaptation refers to the process of adjusting to the current or expected impacts of climate change. Historically, the focus of climate change conversations has largely been on mitigation - the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid or lessen the impacts of climate change.

However, with the increased occurrence of extreme weather events happening across the world, from flooding to heatwaves, the conversation is shifting to include adaptation alongside mitigation. A recent BBC article Climate change: 'Adapt or die' warning from Environment Agency’ presents the stark reality that cities, businesses and governments need to be thinking and proactively preparing for the projected and current impacts of climate change.

As a water and sewerage company that provides an essential service to more than 2.8 million customers, it’s important we build our resilience to prepare for the long-term changes and extreme weather events presented by climate change. The UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 requires key organisations (including water companies) to report every six years on climate change risks and the consequent steps they are taking to adapt. Since then, we have published reports in 2009 and 2015 with the next one to be released at the end of 2021.

As part of this work, we have implemented a range of measures to increase our resilience to the impacts of climate change. These measures include:

  • reducing leakage across our network to ensure a sustainable supply to meet future demand
  • establishing the West Country Water Resources Group with neighbouring water companies to manage future supply and resiliency
  • reducing the infiltration of groundwater into sewers and working with local councils on surface water management
  • installing stand by generators at sites to ensure we can continue delivering our services in the event of power failures caused by extreme weather
  • raising electrical equipment at sites that are at risk of flooding
  • ensuring appropriate health and safety provisions are in place for staff working in extreme heat or other extreme conditions.

We are in the midst of updating our climate change adaptation report. This is the opportunity to revise our assessment of risks to the business based on recent climate projections and identify options to ensure we are prepared. As a business making strides to limit our environmental impacts and provide the best service for our customers, we understand the importance of being proactive to ensure a reliable, sustainable service across the region.

We’re looking forward to the outcome of COP26 and any subsequent actions that support our drive to be a leading business within the sector.

Find out more about what we are doing to become a more sustainable business on our environment page.