The ICE has backed a move by water regulator Ofwat to introduce greater incentives for companies to transfer water from areas where it is plentiful to areas of shortage.
Ofwat has said it intends to do more to ensure water supplies are more effectively managed in response to changing weather patterns.
Last year, drought led to hose pipe bans in many regions across the UK, despite 2012 being the second wettest year on record in England since 1910.
Currently there are limits on the amount of profit water companies can make from selling water to other firms, but the new proposals would see increased financial incentives for the companies to make trading water a more attractive option.
ICE water expert Michael Norton said water security was at a “critical point” and that this is just one of a number of urgent steps that are required to tackle it.
“It is encouraging to see Ofwat finally taking action to incentivise the trade of water and interconnectivity where appropriate,” he said.
“Removal of the regulatory barriers that discourage water sharing between neighbouring water companies will play an important role in achieving water security, as will the development of new water storage facilities to harvest more rainfall.
“These new facilities come at a cost, and this is another area where water companies should be incentivised to collaborate - sharing the cost and ensuring facilities are developed for a range of uses such as flood control, agriculture and public water supply,” he said.
But Norton warned that Ofwat should focus on encouraging water sharing between adjacent regions, enabling the water transfer through a displacement chain or between adjacent river basins. He said moving water long distances around the UK is “costly, potentially environmentally damaging and too grand a design for the need”, a point the ICE made in its State of the Nation: Water report published last summer.
The report also urged the government to establish a clear strategy for more effective water management and a proper task force to lead it.
“There are many measures that can help us manage water more effectively from multipurpose reservoirs, storage ponds for agriculture, sustainable urban drainage systems, and household rainwater harvesting,” said Norton.
“But this requires a strategy bringing in all of the key players involved in water resource management and usage, from regulators, farmers and industry to water companies, the public and governments across the UK.
“To set this in motion, the government should create a UK water security task force, providing leadership and ultimately delivering a strategy that is coherent, integrated and achieves long term water security.”