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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 of England 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. In the WRE region, which covers 31,000 square kilometres from the Humber in the North to the Basildon in the South and Northampton in the West to the Eastern coast, is predicted to face a gap between supply and demand of 750 mega litres a day (ML/d) if the region carries on managing water resources in the say way.

  • How is WRE different?

    The Water Resources East programme 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.

    WRE is rooted in the principle that there isn’t a lack of water, but a lack of sustainable and resilient water management.

    Management of future water resources is at the heart of strategic planning across the globe. Given our unique circumstances (a vulnerable region but with many of the tools necessary to adapt effectively) 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 meeting our legal responsibilities and supporting biodiversity.

  • How will WRE help?

    In looking to create a more sustainable governance model for how water resources are managed, WRE works across sectors and collaboratively with all interested parties – those who use, have an impact on, and are affected by future water resource change.

    Collaborative investment:

    Managing the trade offs between industry sectors that will be able to balance the needs of all partners.

    Facilitating multi-sector investment: Ensuring water resources and their users are resilient to future challenges – especially for those who may struggle to raise capital.

    Encouraging collective ownership of the many future challenges faced by abstractors to deliver better economic outcomes for efficiently and at a lower environmental cost than would otherwise be possible.

    Efficient and affordable:

    Enhanced efficiency: Planning from a whole basin/catchment level to ensure integrated and robust solutions, more efficient planning, provision and use of infrastructure (both financially and in terms of water use/allocation).

    Affordability:  More affordable investment programmes and consequently lower bills for industry as well as public water supply customers. This in turn contributes to approval of tacking our demand management deficit head on.

    Sharing of ideas, expertise and best practice between sectors:

    The WRE programme will be jointly owned and delivered, talking into account the needs of all water users in the WRE with an interest in the management and use of water.

    Making environmental benefit a priority:

    An explicit emphasis on the water demands and protection of the environment has been brought to the forefront of planning – exploring ideas for green infrastructure, wetland restoration, and aquifer storage and recovery.

  • What will WRE deliver?

    Water Resources East 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 working strategy and supporting action plan that will be resilient to the effects of future challenges.

    The WRE strategy and action plan is discussed, researched and agreed by the programme 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 from a usage level) and increasing supply by building new reservoirs, recycling and reusing water, trading and desalination.

    This approach to managing water resources by combining both supply side and demand side management is call a twin-track approach. Reducing demand will in turn help to address the supply deficits the region faces. However, even with robust demand side management, more supply infrastructure will be needed. However, this twin track approach is widely seen held as being the lowest cost and most sustainable way to increase resilience, having already been supported by the National Infrastructure Commission and in Anglian Water’s upcoming WRMP for 2019.

    The technical work behind uses innovative planning approaches such as Multi-Criteria Search and Robust Decision Making which sit under the Decision Making under Uncertainty technique to understand fully the vulnerabilities in the region and possible options to address these challenges.

    The multi-sectorial 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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