Jimmy Coles, Account Director, was delighted to join the wider RSK team in attendance at the World Water Tech Innovation summit held recently in central London. Whilst there were many achievements to cheer over the last year, particularly around emerging innovative technologies, the overriding consensus of the two day conference was the need for the sector to go further and faster when it comes to water infrastructure. 

The conference brought together the key players across government, water companies, the supply chain, regulators and NGOs. What was clear in abundance was the desire for partners across the sector to work together to ensure that we rise to the challenge and build a cleaner, more resilient water sector for the UK. 

Three key challenges were identified which will need to be addressed. That was to improve the quality of our existing water infrastructure and waste water management, reduce the risks of flooding and leakages, and most crucially to deliver infrastructure to build resiliency and keep pace with population increase and rising demand for water. 

These challenges will require partnership working and strategic thinking – a starting point for which should be for government, water companies and regulators agreeing on the long-term pipeline of infrastructure work, mapping these out and securing the funding for getting these projects off the ground. The National Infrastructure Commission envisions that the sector will need to invest £20billion over the next thirty years across England and Wales to keep pace with growing demand. What’s more, is that this will most likely require an increase in consumer water bills in order to raise the finances required to deliver these projects. 

Which brings us on to the other key aspect of delivering this much needed infrastructure – bringing the consumer/communities on the journey with us. If there is to be a rise in water bills for the consumer, there will need to be a significant upturn in the quality of the infrastructure that underpins this, and an understanding amongst communities as to why it is needed. 

Copper Consultancy’s recent study in to the public attitudes towards water infrastructure found that 55 per cent of the public did not fully understand how our water is collected, stored and treated. Despite this, there is a clear appetite from the public for new infrastructure to be delivered, with 66 per cent of those polled suggesting new infrastructure is required, especially if it means cleaner and more affordable water. 

It will therefore be crucial to ensure that when these projects come forward, water companies and developers clearly explain the benefits to the communities and engage with them early on in the process, to ensure that the projects are delivered with community buy-in and understanding. 

For more information or to talk to us about Copper’s work in the water sector, please contact Jimmy Coles at Jimmy.coles@copperconsultancy.com