Managing water resources
Together with Anglian Water we have submitted proposals for a strategic water resources option to deliver future resilience for public water supplies, allowing for growth, environmental, social and economic benefits in the region.
What is the issue?
We serve around 315,000 customers in one of the fastest growing regions of the UK, with projected growth of around 50,000 new homes in the next 20 years. Our region is one of the driest in the UK, with low annual rainfall and is a designated area of water stress. We are committed to ensuring future supplies for growth that are resilient to climate change, whilst improving the environment and the regions ecology.
Our WRMP19 demonstrated that we can maintain supplies into the future by balancing supply and demand, by optimising existing resources and an ambitious demand management programme of metering and leakage reduction. However we recognise that at some point in the future, significant new infrastructure will be required to support the need for growth, environmental protection and enhancement, and ensuring resilience in a changing climate. We expect to see some of these challenges emerging when we produce our next water resources plan, WRMP24.
The scale and complexity of this potential new infrastructure means that long lead-in times would be required before it could be built. We have to be planning for these solutions ahead of time, for them to be 'construction ready' should they be needed. This forward-looking approach to uncertain requirements is referred to as adaptive planning. We are now planning for schemes that may be required for delivery between 2025 and 2035.
To support the progression of strategic options, the Regulatory Alliance for Progressing Infrastructure Development (RAPID) has been established to help accelerate the development of new water infrastructure. It seeks to improve regulation and remove barriers to help the water sector respond to long-term water resources challenges. RAPID is comprised of representatives from Ofwat, the Environment Agency and the Drinking Water Inspectorate.
Development funding is available to water companies progressing strategic solutions through RAPID. A gated process has been designed to ensure the funds are spent on time and to quality standards. Water companies exploring agreed strategic solutions need to submit deliverables at each gate to demonstrate their progress. This is in addition to any planning consents.
The Fens Reservoir
We are working together with Anglian water on a strategic option called The Fens Reservoir - a proposed new reservoir in the Fens, either to the east or west of the Ouse Washes. This option is being progressed to the first stage of the RAPID-gated process; 'gate one'.
At this stage, we must demonstrate each strategic solution’s progress and viability. This involves setting out plans for delivering the proposed solution, including early conceptual outline designs alongside strategies for engaging stakeholders, gaining planning permission and for procuring and operating the new infrastructure.
The gate one submission reports can be found below. The solution will deliver social, environmental and economic benefits beyond public water supply resilience for the region and communities they serve.
It is important to note this strategic solution is at an early stages, with key details such as site selection and early concept designs still being progressed. Details included within the gate one reports are conceptual for the purposes of demonstrating the options are viable rather than for confirming designs and locations for development.
Once more detail is available, we will share information on our emerging proposals and identified locations with local communities, inviting feedback through a period of consultation. For reservoir schemes, this is likely to be in Spring 2022.