Measures to reduce water demand – including reducing leakage, the use of metering to curb consumption, and promoting efficient water use – are necessary, but will not be sufficient. Additional sources of supply will be needed, and on a large scale. We’re working with companies on resource planning to protect against future shortages and safeguard both customers and the environment.
Identifying the options
Five regional groups (Water Resources North, West, East, South East, and West Country) have been formed, made up of neighbouring water companies and major users of water in each region. These regional groups will produce a plan for making their region more water resilient, identifying options that provide the best value to customers, society and the environment rather than simply the least cost. Additionally, the water resource projects of greatest national importance –new reservoirs, bulk water transfers and wastewater treatment and reuse schemes – have been designated strategic resource options (SROs). These are being planned and developed through their own dedicated funding and regulatory assessment process. The water industry’s regulators have formed a joint body to decide which of these should proceed, considering economic, environmental and water quality factors in the round.
We are helping many individual water companies to think about and plan their resource requirements for the next 25 years or more, as part of the statutory investment planning process. These include most of the major water companies in the water-stressed south and east of England. We’re also helping Water Resources South East – including Thames, Affinity and Southern Water – with its programme management, option appraisal, environmental appraisals and its handling of data; and we’re supporting Water Resources East (the regional water resources group for Eastern England) with its regional plan too.
Planning for long-term sustainable water resource management involves balancing social, economic and environmental needs and considerations, which requires extensive consultation and collaboration with stakeholders – representative bodies for domestic customers, agricultural and industrial user groups, investors and regulators, civil society organisations representing environmental and recreational interests, and the water companies themselves.
We’re providing project management, technical expertise, environmental services and drinking water assessments that are helping to shape the development of many of the SROs. We’ve also supported the regulators in assessing the options, and have produced guidance on cost and carbon, water quality and environmental impacts for the all-company working group, to help the water companies and regulators compare the strategic resource options accurately.
As of July 2022 all the SROs had passed through the first ‘gate’ of the resource options assessment process (initial concept design and decision making). Project teams were next working towards gate two (detailed feasibility, concept design and multi-solution decision making).
A number of obstacles remain as the solutions progress in the coming years: as well as the technical challenges of design and engineering, water treatment and environmental protection, these also include navigating the planning process, setting up the right procurement models and delivery vehicles, and determining the commercial arrangements that will govern water transfers. However, the English water sector and its customers are progressing well on the path to securing water resources long into the future.