This May sees the next talk in the monthly 'Water Colloquium' series organised by WIRC @ Bath exploring the breadth of water research being undertaken at the University of Bath and beyond.
Title: A medium term 'crisis' in water? Might Brexit be the answer?
When: Thursday 4th May 2017 at 1.15pm
Where: Room 3.6, Chancellors' Building, University of Bath (Location and maps)
Abstract: The water industry has enjoyed 15 years of static prices, while profits have been maintained and by and large improvements in service have continued.
But this may be coming to an end. A recent peer reviewed study by Atkins and others for Water UK showed that the likelihood of future droughts was markedly greater than had previously thought. There has been systematically underinvestment in asset maintenance. Catchments are under increasing ecological pressure. Population growth, new development and climate change are ever present. And the financial backdrop to the last 15 years’ price falls is coming to an end.
If this combination of factors is not to lead to a perfect storm of rising bills, falling service and increasing ecological damage we need a paradigm shift. Whatever the pros and cons of Brexit more widely, an ability to think afresh about environmental legislation – moving from process to outcome based regulation - coupled with the need to rethink agricultural support may provide an important opportunity for water.
The resultant new approach to catchment management could involve a genuine partnership between land managers, water companies and flood defence agencies with benefits for water availability, environmental quality and flood defences. All with potentially reduced water bills.
There seem to be two ways of achieving this: evolutionary change, or a move to a ‘system operator/natural capital trading’ approach. Neither are without their risks. Both require a degree of cross sectoral and multiple benefits thinking which has not proved easy to achieve in the UK to date.