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Blueprint for Water

Blueprint for Water is a coalition of over 20 organisations working to restore the ecology of the UK’s rivers, lakes, ponds and wetlands by seeking improvements to water policy at an England level. Read our vision report  "Actions to Recover England's Waters and Wildlife" here.

Chair: Ali Morse, The Wildlife Trusts
Vice Chair: Tessa Wardley, The Rivers Trust, and Emily Smith, Angling Trust

Link: Ellie Ward, Senior Policy Officer

Update from the group:

Link’s Blueprint for Water Group works on freshwater policy issues and current work prioritises environmental resilience, sustainable abstraction, water quality and agricultural pollution (through joint work with Link’s Agriculture group).

In February 2024, Blueprint members contributed to Link's response to the Public Accounts Committee inquiry exploring resilience to extreme weather, in particular around drought and flooding. This draws on our December 2023 briefing on working with nature to build resilience to both flooding and drought, outlining the action needed to unlock barriers and increase uptake of both nature-based solutions and natural flood management.

In January 2024, Blueprint members provided further views to Ofwat on metrics for environmental improvement, and improving the transparency of the price review, following a roundtable discussion with eNGOs. Blueprint also led on Link's responses to a consultation on the Growth Duty Draft Statutory Guidance, and on Strengthening Economic Regulation. We remain concerned that despite the updated guidance, the Growth Duty weighs the balance too heavily towards financial costs and benefits, at the expense of wider social and environmental costs, benefits and needs

Throughout 2023, Blueprint members have engaged with the PR24 process, furthering the asks set out in our 2021 'Environmental Manifesto for PR24'. We will continue to advocate for an ambitious, transformative Price Review in 2024. Blueprint members submitted evidence to both the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the 'Work of Ofwat' in November 2023 and the Industry and Regulators Committee inquiry into 'UK Regulators' in December 2023. We have also written jointly to the Environment Agency, Ofwat, and Defra to share our concerns with the draft PR24 business plans. 

In November 2023, Blueprint members worked alongside Link's Resources & Waste Working Group to develop a response to the consultation on banning wet wipes containing plastic. In October 2023, Blueprint members responded to a further consultation on proposals to extend civil sanction VMP powers. Whilst we welcome the proposal, concerns remain as to how an under-resourced Environment Agency will be able to deliver the monitoring and enforcement regime required to impose the new penalties. Further detail is also required to explain how the extended VMP powers will work alongside proposals for a Water Restoration Fund. 

In August 2023, Blueprint members wrote to the Secretary of State to share our concern with the steer given to the water industry to explore the deferral of many environmental projects under PR24. Deferring vital environmental projects will not drive nature’s recovery, will not meet public expectations for a clean, healthy and thriving water environment, and nor will it represent good use of public money. The letter was covered in national press. Blueprint also responded to the consultation on extending the growth duty to Ofwat, Ofgem and Ofcom. Our response explains why we disagree with this extension; that the duty will weigh the balance too heavily toward economic costs, at the expense of environmental costs, benefits and needs. Economic considerations already enjoy considerable focus from economic regulators; we do not accept the need or justification for introducing a further specific economic growth duty on these bodies. Instead, Government should consider a Green Growth Duty. 

In July 2023, Blueprint for Water worked alongside Link's Marine Mammals and Marine Working Groups to respond to the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan consultation on bringing all coastal and estuarine overflows within scope. We welcomed these proposals, and have called for all Marine Protected Areas to be added to the list of high priority sites within the Plan. Pollution from storm overflows is one of many interacting pressures on the health of the water environment; efforts to improve overflows and reduce sewage pollution must form part of wider holistic action to tackle threats and improve the state of inland, coastal and marine waters.

In May 2023, Blueprint for Water engaged with a number of consultations, several of which follow announcements made in Government's Plan for Water. We welcomed the Government's proposal to remove the cap on penalties that the Environment Agency can pose, though have called for further detail on how this will work and how increase penalties will act effectively as a deterrent. We also shared our concern that unless funding and resourcing for the regulator is increased, their ability to impose these larger penalties - and therefore the benefit to removing the cap - will be undermined. We similarly welcomed Ofwat's proposals to strengthen guidance on performance-related pay, to ensure that this reflects delivery of both environmental and social obligations. We called for further detail about how this process will operate, and for Ofwat to take an even stronger approach to regulating performance-related pay in PR24 and beyond.

Blueprint also responded to consultations on Ofwat's Accelerated Infrastructure Delivery Project draft decisions, the proposed performance commitment for storm overflows in PR24, and on continuous water quality monitoring. Blueprint for Water also wrote to Ofwat CEO David Black to share thoughts on how the Price Review can better drive the use of catchment and nature-based solutions.

In February 2023, Blueprint for Water responded to the draft Water Resources Management Plans and draft Regional Water Resources Plans, through a blog and letters to each of the regional groups. There are positive commitments included in some of the plans, but if we are to achieve sustainable water resources management we hope to see the plans’ shortcomings resolved before final adoption. This includes making greater use of nature-based solutions, increasing focus on tackling non-household demand, and stepping-up work to reduce the water footprint of new developments. The group also coordinated an e-action, encouraging members of the public to get involved in the consultation, urging their water company to show greater ambition for driving water demand down and efficiency up. 

In September 2021, Blueprint released the report 'Actions to Recover England's Waters and Wildlife'. This sets out our vision for the freshwater environment and our ‘how to’ strategy for bringing our freshwaters back to health, before it is too late, with recommendations under three key themes - Recover Biodiversity, Drive Down Pollution, and Re-think Our Relationship With Water.

For further information, contact Ellie Ward, Link’s Senior Policy Officer.

Last updated: 17 April 2024

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