Water in the urban environment

Are there tangible benefits to improving green infrastructure in our towns and cities? How can partnership working overcome current challenges?  These were just some of the topics explored by a series of Defra funded ‘Urban Water Management’ workshops, supported by WaterLIFE. The workshops benefited from diverse participation with over 300 attendees from a wide range of organisations, including environmental NGOs, catchment partnerships, local authorities, water companies, community groups, the Environment Agency, Defra and Natural England.

Key lessons

Collaborative working yields multiple benefits: Including a range of organisations and expertise will increase opportunities, benefits and ultimately improve the water environment.

Challenges and solutions to collaborative working: Changing mindsets, increasing access to clear information and identifying hooks to interest partner organisations are essential to overcome challenges.

Sustainable water management needs to be integrated into local policies and plans: Incorporating sustainable water management into existing plans will make it easier to engage with groups such as local authorities and developers.

Local communities have a key role to play: Empowering local communities to co-deliver projects can increase their chances of being successful and sustainable.

More can be done to engage the business sector: This is an emerging area for many catchment partnerships as business realises its water risk and takes action to mitigate it.

Data and evidence are critical: Access and use of data and evidence is essential and helps in identifying issues, and implementing the necessary interventions.

Understanding of urban ecosystems services and natural capital is key: A healthy urban environment has many benefits such as increased well-being. These benefits and services need to be quantified and communicated.

Technical delivery: Partnership working often means access to a wide range of skill sets that can help tackle technical issues – such as misconnections and pollution.

European funding – collaborative large scale projects: This type and scale of funding lends itself to a partnership approach as it allows different organisations and expertise to be involved.

Te full report which explores these key lessons in greater detail and is available online: ‘Managing water in the urban environment: Key lessons from the UK’

A new housing development alongside the River Soar, Leicestershire
Water in the urban environment © Jiri Rezac/WWF-UK