What is Over-Abstraction?

Over abstraction is the process of taking more water out of a river system than can be replenished naturally.

Over-Abstraction - Wildfish
Over-Abstraction - Wildfish
Over-Abstraction - Wildfish
Water Pattern - Wildfish

Why is abstraction a problem for wild fish and their waters?

Lower volumes of water mean that fish are less able to migrate up and down rivers to complete their life cycles.

  • Pollutants in the water become more concentrated because of the lack of dilution
  • Increased sedimentation clogs up rivers because they do not have the energy to remove them.
  • Less water results in reduced shelter and food availability for wild fish
  • Water temperatures increase and oxygen levels decrease.

What challenges will increase the threat from over abstraction?

Climate change

Parts of England are projected to run out of water in the next 20 years, with the UK’s total water supply forecast to drop 7% by 2045 due to climate change. We need to build resilience in our freshwater habitats now, so they can adapt and remain healthy in the future.

Population growth

Today, around 700 million litres of water per day is from unsustainable abstraction - this is roughly equivalent to 280 olympic swimming pools. Over 222,400 million cubic metres of extra water per year will be needed to meet expected population growth by the 2050s.

Key Stats

1 in

4

Nearly a quarter of English rivers are at serious risk from unsustainable water abstraction.

150

On average, a person in the UK uses 150 litres of water a day. Residents of Copenhagen use less than 110 litres per day.

700

million

litres of water per day are from unsustainable abstraction.

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