Cat comes to CIWEM with a broad range of experiences in the water and environment sector, tackling water issues from the global to local level, and from corporate, government and NGO perspectives.
She lives in the Chilterns, northwest of London and enjoys the outdoors and adventuring with her children - particularly hiking, cycling and the odd bit of paddling. Cat would like to transform the paddling to full wild swimming, so is focused on championing cleaner waters, as well as becoming a bit braver about the cold!
CIWEM Head of Content, Alex Tuck, sat down with her to find out more about her passions, drive, and experience.
Cat, welcome to CIWEM! How does it feel to be our new Policy and Engagement Manager?
I'm thrilled to be joining CIWEM's policy team. I've always felt CIWEM's approach to policy change to be thoughtful and balanced, harnessing the wealth of expertise represented by CIWEM's membership. It's a great model that I'm really proud to be part of.
I've joined at an exciting time with 'A Fresh Water Future' launched in Westminster in my first week. 'A Fresh Water Future' is an independent review and vision for the UK water sector, facilitated and curated by CIWEM. It's grounded in wide-ranging engagement with experts and stakeholders, as well as the public, so it's a solid blueprint for how government should fix the sector. I'm really motivated to make it a reality.
You’ve joined from the South East Rivers Trust, where you led a team focused on improving the stewardship of land and water to enhance river health. In particular, you worked on nature-based solutions. Can you tell us more?
The South East Rivers Trust is part of a network of rivers trusts across the country. My team were focused on developing 'nature-based solutions' to slow and retain rainfall, helping to increase the resilience of river catchments to flood and droughts, whilst also enhancing wildlife habitats. These solutions included headwater wetlands, leaky woody dams, re-wiggling rivers, as well as rainwater harvesting and storage at horticulture farms.
Our ambition was to develop schemes of nature-based solutions at scale, across entire catchments, and establish the funding and governance arrangements that could catalyse that. My time at South East Rivers Trust, working at the environmental 'coal face' so to speak, gave me a much better appreciation of the challenges and barriers to restoring nature and natural processes.
You began your career at Mott MacDonald, where you assisted with a range of water and environment projects - and gained CIWEM chartership. How did CIWEM membership help your career?
CIWEM membership enabled me to focus and consolidate my professional development and ultimately demonstrate through the chartership process that I could apply my learning and experiences to address a range of environmental issues. The access to events and talks helped expand my understanding of different issues and build a professional network, supporting me to take my career to the next level after I had achieved chartership.
Joining CIWEM's staff team feels like returning to my roots in many respects! I've been a member of CIWEM for my entire career, and its support has been key to advancing my professional journey.
In your wider responsibilities, I understand you’re a trustee of the Chiltern Society?
Yes, I wanted to use my experience to do something positive in my local area. The Chiltern Society, which is focused on conserving and promoting the nature and heritage of the Chiltern hills, seemed a really good fit.
As well as being involved in the governance of the Chiltern Society, I oversee the society's efforts to protect chalk streams. These rare habitats are really the 'jewels in the crown' of the Chilterns, but they're under severe pressure from over-abstraction for water supply, development, and pollution from sewers, roads and farmland.
As well as on-the-ground experience in river catchments, you've worked on water issues with big businesses whilst at CDP. Tell us a bit more about that.
CDP runs a global disclosure system for businesses to report their environmental risks, impacts and actions. At CDP, I was focused on improving the efficacy of corporate disclosure on water-related risks and action and developing insights from these disclosures for the business community and their financiers. My time at CDP opened my eyes to the scale of the global water challenge and the crucial role of businesses and their investors in transitioning to a more water-secure future.
At WWF, you led an advocacy team focused on UK water-related policy, and also worked with WWF's freshwater conservation programmes overseas, including in China, India and Tanzania. What more can CIWEM do internationally to broaden its scope?
Water and environment issues manifest themselves locally but are driven - at least in part - by global factors: climate change, markets, migration. It's important to consider these issues, even if you're focused on change at a national, or even local, level. It would be great to see CIWEM being more influential on the global stage, such as driving water-smart corporate supply chains and calling for increased action on climate adaptation.
CIWEM does a fantastic job at capturing inspiring approaches and thought-provoking viewpoints from around the globe. As well as sharing good practice, this fosters diversity of approach and thought, keeping us grounded. Just last week I heard from from one of the CIWEM expert panels about a climate conference in Canada that was giving greater emphasis to indigenous perspectives.
With a general election on the horizon in the UK, I'm really focused on sharing 'A Fresh Water Future' with decision-makers and making this a reality.
I'm also excited about 'Enabling Water Smart Communities', an Ofwat Innovation project focused on integrated water management at a home and community level. This project is very timely given the pressure to build homes in water scarce areas of England that have also been hammered by recent storms. I'm looking forward to drawing on the project's research to effect positive change in the water and building sectors.
In my first few weeks I've been very impressed by the wealth of experience across CIWEM members. I'm really focused on harnessing that to ensure we're driving effective policies. So expect to hear from me and see a wide range of water-related issues rising up the agenda.
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