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Renewable UK

18 Apr 2011 02:04:55

Integrating water management

In light of climate change, demographic change, economic constraints and environmental legislation, CIWEM calls for a more integrated approach to the management of water in its new briefing report on integrated water management.

This week, DEFRA has committed an additional £3m of capital grants to co-fund projects that restore and protect the health of our water catchments and £110m to revamp England's rivers. CIWEM welcomes this week’s announcement of the continuation of the Catchment Sensitive Farming programme.

As a result of the way the UK's water industry has evolved, issues in the water environment have traditionally been observed as either temporally or spatially discrete and we have worked within narrow disciplines to solve them. CIWEM considers that the administrative structures, boundaries, relationships and experience in the water industry will need to be evaluated in the light of changing needs.

Water is one resource but it has many uses. In its management are a complex and diverse range of both people and processes. CIWEM believes integrated water management should be a process whereby human interventions can work within the natural water system, rather than disrupting it in ways that are ultimately unsustainable. This should not only recognise the physical aspects of the water environment, but also its political and social context.

Looking at the wider water system identifies where an activity in one part of the system may create a benefit, or an unforeseen cost, to another. Managing water from a wider perspective takes our thinking beyond water to other agendas such as energy and carbon, planning, waste, biodiversity, agriculture and ecosystem services to deliver more sustainable solutions. It can lead to cost savings by creating efficiencies between local and national projects and make more effective use of project costs. It also acts as a driver for new environmental management skills and new organisational practices.

CIWEM executive director Nick Reeves says: "Although the government is only just waking up to integrated water management, achieving more integration has been on the agenda in the water industry for a number of years. Whilst we commend DEFRA's commitment of 10 pilot test catchments, we already have examples of best practice. What we need is meaningful progress in the sector. This has been limited and CIWEM's report is the first to identify the challenges and barriers to integration and how these can be potentially overcome."

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