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Collaboration across water planning, policy and practice

By working together and fostering a collaborative relationship, water companies and environmental organisations can help protect and restore our aquatic environment.

September 2018

The water environment is intricately linked to the water industry. Water management can have significant positive and negative impacts on the environment whilst a healthy environment can ensure a more resilient, adaptable water sector. By working together and fostering a collaborative relationship, water companies and environmental organisations can help protect and restore our aquatic environment.

This is not simply altruism - using natural processes and having a healthy, functioning ecosystem can deliver cost effective solutions to providing plentiful, clean water and waste water systems - whilst ensuring customers get value for money. We are delighted to be launching our shared principles, highlighting the valuable work that water companies and environmental organisations do together – and how much more we can achieve going forward.

Planning together

Water companies’ business plans for 2020-2025 highlight the investment needed to deliver enough water to tackle growth and climate change, to drain and treat wastewater and to demonstrate that the industry and the environment the sector relies on is resilient. Environmental organisations have been engaged in the development of these plans every step of the way helping to ensure that good ideas offer the best outcomes possible for the environment.

This collaboration is crucial when it comes to understanding our environment; the impact water companies have on it, the changes that it is experiencing and how we can become more responsive to them. No single organisation has the full picture, is responsible for all of the impact, or can deliver the whole solution – the benefits are obvious.

Catchment management programmes are becoming business as usual to help tackle diffuse pollution and many water companies are involved in their local catchment partnerships to help improve water quality. In the PR19 plans companies propose 367 catchment management schemes - a two-thirds increase over five years and, £5 billion of investment will help Government and environmental organisations improve the quality of our water environment.

However, the business plans are just the start. We want to use these shared principles to drive further collaboration throughout PR19 and beyond.

Developing effective policy

We also work together in other areas, such as policy. Don’t get us wrong, we don’t always agree but it is important that we have constructive, informed debate on areas of difference and that where we do agree about something we can say it together. That’s what these shared principles are all about.
In a time of increasing uncertainty in the light of Brexit it is more important than ever to join together around areas we agree on such as agriculture, environmental principles and sustainable drainage. Sharing the same message will have more impact and reach more people than if we just worked on these areas alone.

Together we can push for changes in policy to help improve outcomes for the environment and deliver a more sustainable and resilient water sector. This is a new area of partnership, but in signing up to these shared principles we believe it will help empower more action in this field to ensure that Brexit supports both the water industry and the environment.

Delivering in partnership

It is real, long term relationships that are true partnerships; strategic investments in assets and people; leading enabling programmes for communities; being honest, open and accountable; and constantly challenging the status quo, and being willing to embrace the new, that will produce a truly resilient system.

As part of the launch of the shared principles we will be highlighting various examples of collaborative projects that have offered best value solutions whilst enhancing habitats and helping endangered species. Going forward, water companies have collectively put forward plans for 8,000km of river improvements, which will benefit wildlife and the lives of customers, activity that can only be delivered in partnership with environmental groups.

A healthy environment is vital for wildlife, for clean and plentiful water, for customers and we are working together to make sure that the environment has a voice and to deliver a sustainable, resilient water sector now and into the future. As partners, working together, we are determined to make this happen.

Heidi Mottram CBE, Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water Group

Hannah Freeman, Senior Government Affairs Officer, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Follow @NorthumbrianH2O and @WWTworldwide

The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of the wider Link membership.