Flood risk to rise fourfold by 2035: report

LONDON Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:03am BST

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LONDON (Reuters) - The risk of flooding for many English homes and businesses could increase fourfold by 2035 if more action to deal with the impact of climate change is not taken, government advisers said on Wednesday.

As severe floods continue to batter parts of Britain after the wettest June since records began, the climate advisers said more investment and better planning for new housing in flood plains was needed.

"We must take adaptation more seriously if we are to manage the growing risks of floods and droughts," said John Krebs, the chairman of a climate change advisory panel.

"This can be done by investing more in flood defences, faster rollout of water meters and giving serious consideration to where and how we build our housing and infrastructure," he said in a statement.

"Without action by households and businesses to prepare for these inevitable weather extremes the country faces rising costs, unnecessary damage and future disruption."

Scientists believe extreme weather is likely to become more frequent in the future due to climate change.

Flooding will be the biggest climate risk to Britain this century with damage set to cost as much as 12 billion pounds a year by the 2080s if nothing is done to adapt to extreme weather, a government-funded study said in January.

The government's advisers said in a report that property development in flood plains - or areas along streams or rivers that are likely to experience repeated flooding - has increased by 12 percent over the past 10 years compared with a 7 percent rise in other parts of England.

Public and private funding for flood defences is falling and is 12 percent lower for the current government spending period compared with the previous one, after inflation.

The UK's Environment Agency estimates that funding needs to increase by 20 million pounds a year on top of inflation to keep pace with climate change.

Apart from increased flooding risks, water scarcity is also likely to become more common in parts of the country due to climate change and population growth, the panel said.

Water scarcity is likely to be made worse by household consumption levels which are among the highest in north-west Europe.

Encouraging households to save water could cut total consumption by 700 million litres a day, which is two thirds more than is currently saved under initiatives by water companies, according to the report.

The government should take further steps to increase water efficiency through water metering and pricing, it added.

(Editing by David Cowell)

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