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More houses are being built in flood-prone areas and more urban sites are being paved over despite a rising risk of flooding, the Government's climate advisers have warned.
The Committee on Climate Change's group assessing how prepared the UK is for global warming said the country was close to the limit in coping in areas such as water supplies and flooding - and climate change could push it over the edge.
The UK could be increasingly vulnerable to expected climate impacts including more floods, heatwaves and droughts, because the risks are not being taken fully into account in decisions on areas such as planning and water supplies, it said.
The adaptation sub-committee's chairman, Lord John Krebs, said there was a need to ''gear up'' from current awareness of the threat of climate change to taking action, for example by bringing in water meters to encourage people to save water.
Last year four companies - Severn Trent Water, Northumbria Water and Essex and Suffolk Water, Sutton and East Surrey Water and Thames Water - warned they would struggle to meet demand in some parts of their region in the case of drought.
Only 8% of areas in England are at risk of water shortages in case of severe drought, but the report warned this could increase to 45% by 2035.
Meters would encourage people to install water-saving showers, taps and toilets in their homes when they replaced old bathrooms and kitchens because it would save money immediately, Lord Krebs said.
But he ruled out the kind of phase-out of conventional equipment seen with light bulbs, in which incandescent lamps have been outlawed in favour of energy saving bulbs, saying that water meters would provide the necessary incentives for change.
''The Government should roll out meters. We want to incentivise people to adopt those measures that would save them money and save the country water.''
Meanwhile, data on nine local authorities, South Gloucestershire, East Riding, Tewkesbury, Stockton, Fareham, Hull, Gosport, Gloucester and Southampton, examined in light of their vulnerability to flooding, showed that in all but Southampton, development in at-risk areas had increased over the past 10 years.
And in four areas, Hull, East Riding, South Gloucestershire and Stockton, the rate of development was higher in flood-risk areas than across the district as a whole.
The research also showed that Gosport, Fareham and East Riding had overseen a rise in building on areas of eroding coastline.
And five out of six town and city areas studied - Gloucester, Fareham, Gosport, Islington and Haringey - had seen an increase in the amount of green areas being paved over, raising the risk of flash flooding and higher urban temperatures.
Across England between 12,000 and 16,000 homes a year have been built in areas of high flood risk in the past decade - with the numbers dropping slightly after the devastating 2007 floods which hit swathes of the country.
Lord Krebs said some of the building in flood risk areas would be offset by measures to protect homes from flooding, but the report warned that it could lock communities into the cost of maintaining flood defences.
And many councils would be having to make trade-offs between keeping houses out of the flood plain and other concerns such as not developing in protected sites or areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Lord Krebs said:
''I think it should be a local decision for local communities.''
But he said: ''At the very least there should be a more transparent process, so the local authority can explain why they're building in areas of potential flood risk and explain explicit trade-offs.''
The report looked at adaptation to climate change in three key areas: land use, water supplies and buildings.
It detailed how buildings could be adapted without additional costs to cope with rising temperatures, water shortages or floods, using measures ranging from tinted window films and using curtains to low-flow showers and air-brick covers.