Today, Water Resources East (WRE) has officially been established as a not for profit, independent company.
The focus of the company is simple - recognising the impact that climate change and population growth will continue to have on Eastern England′s finite water supply, combined with the need to enhance the environment in this region.
WRE is one of five regional water resource planning groups working as part of the Environment Agency′s development of a national framework for water resource management, but is the first to set itself up as an independent legal entity. Becoming an independent company marks a commitment by the Eastern regions most influential organisations to manage the region′s water resources together, through an impartial platform.
The new company, Water Resources East (WRE) Limited, has been formed by a collaborative partnership comprising: Anglian Water; Affinity Water; Cambridge Water; Essex and Suffolk Water; Severn Trent; the National Farmers′ Union; RWE Generation; Lincolnshire County Council; Suffolk Growth Programme Board (on behalf of all Local Authorities in Suffolk) and Norfolk County Council who will collectively form a Board of Directors.
The new Board of WRE, which is expected to grow over the next few months as other organisations join the company, will be supported and advised by a wider network of over 50 different organisations from a diverse group of sectors, including regulators.
Eliane Algaard, Water Director for Essex & Suffolk Water said: "We are excited to be a part of WRE and looking forward to working in collaboration with the other water companies and organisations going forward. We know we face some significant challenges in the East such as responding to climate change and population growth, but there are also opportunities to protect and enhance our water supply and benefit the wider region. It makes sense for water companies to come together in this way to achieve our common goals and deliver positive solutions for our customers."
Dr Robin Price, Interim Managing Director for WRE said: "WRE is one of the most collaborative and ambitious projects of its kind. It draws together neighbouring water companies, the agricultural community, local authorities, the energy sector, environmental NGOs and regulators to plan together for the future management of water across Eastern England in the decades to come".
The next phase of WRE′s work will focus on the delivery of pilot projects within water-stressed catchments in the region. These pilots will focus on the links between land management and water management and will seek to maximise and account for environmental and Natural Capital benefits.
As part of one set of pilots, land owners will be encouraged to develop multi-sector water storage reservoirs, capturing excess water from winter rainfall and floods. This water could then be used to benefit the whole regional economy to bolster the regions water supply, support agriculture, enhance fenland conservation and reduce flood risk. These new reservoirs will be supported by further interconnecting pipes to enable water to be moved around the region, irrespective of water company boundaries.
NFU National Water Resources Specialist Paul Hammett said: "The food and farming sector in the Eastern England makes a significant contribution to the region′s economy, and to the nation′s food supply.
"However, a secure supply of water is a vital ingredient for both food production and manufacturing. WRE will ensure that water for food isn′t overlooked as we tackle the challenge of managing water demand and supply for all.
"The NFU hopes that the successful delivery of local schemes, under this new phase of WRE, can be used as case studies to inspire farmers across the Eastern England to get involved with their own local ‘joined up′ water management projects."