Earlier this month, Environment Agency chief executive, Sir James Bevan, said that England’s water supply could dry up in 25 years unless urgent action was taken. British Water chief executive, Lila Thompson, offers her views here.
British Water welcomes Sir James Bevan’s words about the UK’s pending water crisis and the “mix of methods” needed to reduce demand and increase supply. Water scarcity is a very serious issue in the UK and overseas and British Water members are very keen to play their part alongside the water utilities, the regulators and the public in achieving long-term water resilience.
The water industry supply chain has a long history of innovation in meeting crises in water and sanitation evidenced over many decades. The UK already boasts a very broad range of technologies and expertise which include areas such as leakage detection, smart metering, data analytics and sustainable water management.
The Environment Agency’s concerns are in line with the National Infrastructure Commission’s 2018 report Preparing for a drier future, which calls for increased drought resilience in England by enhancing the capacity of the water supply system through demand management, including leakage reduction, and long-term investment in infrastructure.
We also welcome the ‘stronger catchment focus’ advocated by the Environment Agency, that will also require closer relationships between stakeholders. Not only is British Water in a strong position to support collaboration with the supply chain, we are also supporting collaboration between utilities, which is encouraged by Ofwat, the economic regulator.
Ofwat has urged water companies to consider how they can collaborate with other companies to maximise the opportunities for research to address common challenges such as leakage detection, water efficiency and wastewater treatment processes. As a result, British Water is hosting an event, Encouraging Collaborative Innovation in the Water Sector, which takes place at WrC’s Swindon headquarters on 4 April 2019.
The day of presentations and workshops was organised in response to a UK government consultation on driving innovation in regulated utilities and is free to attend. It will bring together the supply chain and water companies to explore how collaborative innovation can be delivered. Cross-sector learnings from the gas industry’s experience of innovation will also feature during day.
As the UK’s lead trade association for the water industry, our members can provide knowledge and experience in every aspect of water technology, services and infrastructure. We are always ready to put those connections to work for the water industry and other stakeholders in the UK and internationally.