Water resources regional planning – emerging plans point the way to a more strategic approach

Management & Regulation, Water Resources

The pressures on our water environment are growing. A critical component of this is the demand for water for public water supply, which must be balanced against the needs of the environment to be resilient to the increasing impacts of climate change. Particular risks identified in the recent climate change risk assessment including the impacts on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and soil health associated with drought.

In 2018 the National Infrastructure Commission warned of the risks of future water shortages in England as a result of Climate Change and recommended that Government must ensure that capacity within the water supply system is enhanced in the face of this risk. This should be as part of a twin-track, demand-management and supply-enhancement approach.

CIWEM fully recognises these risks and has advocated a more integrated approach to planning for water management, involving coordinated joint planning by water companies and their wider stakeholders. A fundamental part of this is developing a greater regional and national level picture and diverse approach to planning to deliver against strategically important water resources needs.

Regional planning groups have existed for some years but are being placed on a more formal footing. Water Resources South East, Water Resources East, Water Resources North, Water Resources West and West Country Water Resources have recently published emerging regional water resources plans for consultation. These are proving valuable in setting strategic priorities and direction of travel, both for the public water supply as well as increasingly for other sectors such as agriculture.

We welcome the evolution of these groups to become a formally integrated part of water resources management planning. Their consideration of wider social, economic, resilience, net zero and natural capital context is vital to understanding where strategic options may be critical to meeting the needs of both public water supply and the Environment.

There will be scope for learning following the experience gained from the first formal round of regional plans and we look forward to supporting this process in the coming years, through our water resources panel and more widely.

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