Water is a natural resource on which all life depends. And we depend on our environment for water. But the resource is under threat as our environment changes in response to growing populations, bigger cities, changing how land is used for industry and farming, and, of course, climate change due to rising global temperatures.
Understanding how we can secure a supply of clean water for drinking and households, agriculture, business, power generation, transport, recreation and well-being is a vital part of NERC's research portfolio. NERC invest around £65m every year in water security projects, supporting the research of scientists at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology - external link - and partnering with UK industry including Marks & Spencer and leading water suppliers.
Most of our deep sea remains unexplored. In fact, humans have mapped more of the surface of the Moon than the bottom of the sea floor. NERC-funded research at the National Oceanography Centre - external link - is uncovering the mysteries of the deep ocean and its currents, using robotic underwater vehicles and the RRS Discovery to enhance our understanding of the world's changing climate and the sea's role in 'capturing' carbon from fossil fuels building up in our atmosphere.
Our seas are home to a huge variety of creatures in some of Earth's most diverse and fascinating habitats. Keeping the oceans clean ensures our beautiful coasts are cleaner and safer; protecting wildlife and boosting the UK's expanding fish and shellfish industries - one of the world's most sustainable sources of protein. Decades of NERC research worth £4m helped bring about banning of harmful pollutants previously used on ships to deter barnacles, allowing damaged ecosystems to recover.
Flooding and storms
Understanding the complex movements of water between the sea, atmosphere and land helps us predict and respond to changes in our climate - including major storms and severe rainfall causing the floods and landslides which have devastated swathes of the UK in recent winters. NERC research using state-of-the-art data gathering equipment feeds into supercomputers used to predict the weather, alongside developing early warning systems and ways to build the best severe weather and flooding defences to keep our towns, cities and farmland safe.