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What’s the challenge?

The Eastern region is home to some of the UK’s most exciting businesses, most beautiful natural sites, most fertile agricultural land and most prestigious academic institutions – and it’s set to grow rapidly over the coming decades. Three of the UK’s five fastest-growing cities, the Thames Gateway and the M11, A11 and M1 growth corridors are all in the Eastern region – making a significant contribution to growth nationally.

But the East has other attributes that make it uniquely vulnerable to water shortage and severe weather events. Nearly 30% of the land mass is below sea level, a huge proportion of the area is used for agricultural production, it’s the driest region in the UK and the East has one of the longest coastlines of any region.

With the increasing risk of drought and the surge in demand for food, energy and services that is likely in future, there is a very real risk that a lack of water could limit growth and development in the East.


Why will WRE help?

The Water Resources East project is pioneering a collaborative approach to water resources planning. Instead of the traditional approach, in which water companies look at water resource planning for their respective areas in isolation, WRE brings together regulators, companies, retailers and individuals in the water, agriculture, power and environmental sector. It looks at the needs and potential trade-offs across all these organisations and balances considerations of customers, agriculture, the economy and the environment.

Management of future water resources is at the heart of strategic planning across the globe. Given our unique circumstances in a region vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but with many of the tools necessary to adapt effectively to those impacts, we have a rare opportunity to help lead, shape and inform thinking in the UK and further afield. This is particularly true when considering the present and future pressures on water resources, and how best to manage demands from intensive agricultural production and food processing sectors.

Despite these growing demand pressures, we also need to find ways to reduce future levels of water abstraction to ensure we maintain a sustainable environment, meet our legal responsibilities and support biodiversity.


What will WRE deliver?

WRE will be central to delivering a reliable, sustainable and affordable system of water supply in the East to 2045 and beyond. It will produce an overarching strategy and supporting action plan that will be resilient to the effects of population growth and climate change.

The WRE strategy and action plan will be discussed, researched and agreed by the project partners. This will deliver more efficient, robust, resilient and cost effective solutions than would be offered through traditional approaches.  For example, this may include reducing demand (by cutting leakage and being more water efficient) and increasing supply by building new reservoirs, recycling and reusing water, trading and desalination.

The expert technical work will use innovative planning approaches such as multi-criteria search and Robust Decision Making to understand fully the vulnerabilities in the region and possible options to address these challenges. The multi-sectoral approach to water resources planning will deliver a significant range of benefits, including:

  • More efficient planning, provision and use of infrastructure (both financially and in terms of water use and allocation)
  • More affordable investment programmes and consequently lower bills for customers
  • Sharing of ideas, expertise and best practice between sectors
  • Facilitating multi-sector investment approaches to ensure water resources are resilient to future challenges (particularly from those who otherwise would struggle to raise capital)
  • Encouraging collective ownership of the future challenges faced by abstractors
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