Water Resources East has officially been launched.
After four years of intensive technical work and stakeholder engagement, Water Resources East (WRE) resource management strategy was officially launched to the public on 9th July 2018 at the Epic Centre, Lincoln.
When it comes to water, the East of England faces many challenges: climate change, drought and flooding, population growth and the increase in demand for public and private water supplies, and environmental damage through lack of water availability. And yet, while being the driest part of the UK, it is internationally recognised for its biodiversity, produces 40% of England’s vegetables, and it is where 10.5 million people call home.
Anglian Water helped establish WRE in recognition of these challenges and realities. Through collaboration and shared vision planning, the central goal of WRE is to promote practical means for balancing the competing needs of all of those with an interest in the abstraction and use of water.
This is being achieved through new ways of working together; sharing ideas, expertise and best practice; and making efficient water use, affordability and environmental benefits our priorities.
Far from traditional launch events, the event at the Epic Centre was interactive, immersive and experiential with the aim to help influence the way we talk about, think about, and manage water in the East of England and beyond.
This unique opportunity bought together 140 delegates from all sectors including businesses, members of the public, Defra, the Environment Agency, the NFU and CLA, the Association of Drainage Authorities, the RSPB, UK water companies, distinguished universities and local authorities, to name a few.
The afternoon was one of contrasts with delegates starting in a dystopian ‘world without water’ where the impact on sectors including public water supply, industry, agriculture, and the environment were explored through bleak and desperate scenarios brought to life.
They emerged in ‘utopia’, a dedicated space for exploring the benefits that the WRE approach has to offer, as well as showcasing other inspirational and collaborative water resource management projects from the region.
The launch concluded with a Q&A panel session with Anne Ramsay (Senior Water advisor at Natural England); Paul Hickey (Deputy Director of Water Resources at the Environment Agency); Robert Caudwell (Association of Drainage Authorities Chairman); Mike Cook (Head of water resources & strategic planning at Anglian Water); and Martin Collison (Water Resources East communications and engagement chair). The floor was open to questions which provided a thought provoking and insightful session exploring water regulation, environmental considerations, governance structures, and potential future water management projects.
WRE has now reached a point of transition between theoretical planning and research, and practical delivery. Stakeholders have shown unfettered enthusiasm to this next stage and are committed to working with WRE to deliver projects.
What was encouraging was the positive response from a wide range of delegates reflected in the sixty pledge cards filled out by those at the event offering support to drive WRE forward into its second phase.
Following on from the launch, WRE will be keeping up the momentum with a re-vamped website in the coming months which will seek to be a ‘one stop shop’ for all things Water Resources East. It will also provide a platform and resources for work linked to the WRE including videos, news articles, reports, and publications.
Additionally, WRE will be making appearances at various conferences and events (including the Greater Lincolnshire LEP annual conference and the institute of water event at the Environment Agency in Bristol) engaging new and existing audiences in the work WRE and our stakeholders are achieving.
An inside view
Engineering and development consultancy groups Mott MacDonald and Atkins Global have been integral to the work of WRE. Oliver Pattenden, WRE programme manager at Mott MacDonald, reflects on work done so far and where WRE is set to go in the future.
“Water Resources East has been one of the most interesting, exciting and challenging projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on. By looking at a longer-term strategy more than ever before in water resource planning, the project has provided a means to address the future challenges such as climate change, population growth, increasing demand and unsustainable abstraction, which we all know are coming. Utilising a pioneering multi-sector approach in shared vision planning and robust decision making has for the first time in UK water resource management brought all the key stakeholders round a table to develop a shared understanding of our regional vulnerabilities and to develop common priorities and a resilient regional strategy that meets the needs of all stakeholders. We had many challenges along the way, perhaps most difficult was developing a common understanding or language between stakeholders who came from a variety of technical backgrounds, and whilst initially it was clear there were a number of preconceptions of how different sectors operated, it was impressive how the stakeholder group re-adjusted opinions when they truly understood one another’s needs. I am delighted that we are looking to implement the strategy at a local level, but for me I would be most satisfied if the approach becomes cemented into the regulatory planning process, so we can ensure water resource planning in the future is robust, resilient and truly meets the needs of all our stakeholders.”
To find out more on Mott MacDonald’s collaborative approach to water management read their article for WWT online here.