Last year myself and a group of farmers, drainage engineers and environmental experts found ourselves bumping along in a trailer behind a tractor deep in the Lincolnshire fens. On one side were fields of wheat and vegetables and on the other a huge waterway cut across the landscape – not a river but one of the drains that ensures this area plays a vital role in producing food for the UK’s tables.
Dotted around this area there are also wetland wildlife habitats and the pumping stations that work to move water from the land, down the drains and out to sea. It is all part of the Black Sluice Internal Drainage Board area around Boston and we were gathered to help launch the latest phase of Water Resources East, a collaborative partnership aiming to plan and manage water in the East for generations to come.
From the fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire to the Broads in Norfolk, our coastal communities, and the towns in cities in a region with the UK’s lowest rainfall, water is something we need to take very seriously.
Water Resources East first started life as a partnership in 2014 when we at Anglian Water, as well as others water companies in our region, local authorities, the agricultural industry and the Environment Agency, realised that only by working together and sharing expertise are we able to tackle some huge challenges. These include ensuring that there is enough water for the region’s farmers, businesses, the growing population and the wildlife that rely on wetlands and rivers. How can we ensure resilience in the face of unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change? How can we move water around the region more efficiently? Where will we store water in the future when our current storage capacity is no longer enough?
These challenges can seem daunting when we look at them from our own viewpoints as engineers, land managers, council officers or conservationists – but together we have begun to draw lines, make connections, discuss ideas and start to plan, not just for this decade or the next but 50 years into the future.
Standing in a landscape shaped over generations by the challenges of water management, surrounded by others who understand the vital role it plays in the region’s future security – I certainly felt a little less daunted, and a lot more confident. I look forward to many productive years of partnership working ahead.
When we became Responsible Business of the Year in 2017, we committed to sharing our perspective on models for collaborative working. So during Responsible Business Week we are releasing three guides to shine a light on how we have worked with others to develop these models and how they are working. Today we are happy to share our perspective on Water Resources East – A case study for innovative, multi-sector, regional resource planning. We don’t expect anyone to take these models and directly “plug & play” in their local area but we do hope to inspire you with what we see as the art of the possible. We hope that in each guide there is something that can help you create new and successful collaborations in a place that is important to you and your business. As a responsible business network we can demonstrate our leadership by taking up this challenge to make the UK happier, healthier and wealthier place by place.