Over 60 organizations including businesses such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola and M&S have signed a Catchment Management Declaration agreeing to step up action to address the increasing pressures to UK water through improved catchment management.
The declaration was created by a cross sector of companies with support of the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), The Rivers Trust and Business in the Community to gather commitment to and action for a multi-sector approach to catchment management.
Other signatories including several of the UK’s largest water companies, such as Anglian Water, Thames Water and Yorkshire Water, as well as supermarket chains Asda, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
“It is vital that we understand the availability of water for all of us to use is impacted by the quality of the water in our landscape,” said Peter Simpson, Chief Executive of Anglian Water. “Continuing to manage the demand and impacts on water in the future, while balancing the needs of the environment, will only be possible by working collaboratively across our water catchments. That way we can make sure that there is enough water of the right quality for all our needs.”
The declaration commits the signatories to recognize that water is a valuable shared resource and to work together to: take responsibility to progress sustainable water management for all; support action at both catchment and regional scale to deliver multiple benefits through cross-sector partnership and collaboration; support the improvement of existing governance frameworks to facilitate delivery through mechanisms such as the Catchment Based Approach; increase the awareness of citizens on their role in delivering water stewardship and encourage positive action. In addition, the organizations committed to include delivery against the declaration throughout their business operations and to reconvene in a year’s time to share progress, best practices and to demonstrate positive action.
“Managing our water resources effectively requires a collaborative approach in order to deliver real benefits for the environment, economy and local communities,” said Gemma Cranston, CISL’s Programme Director for Natural Capital. “This is recognized by the many organisations that have signed the Catchment Management Declaration.”
Effective catchment management has the potential to harness natural processes to support a healthier environment and manage modern challenges such as rapid population growth and climate change; the biggest threats to our water system according to a recent study from the Environment Agency.
“Catchment management can – and must – now play a greater role, including in urban areas, where it can create much-needed green spaces for people to enjoy, as well as managing pressures on the environment we rely on,” said Richard Aylard, CVO of External Affairs & Sustainability Director at Thames Water.
A leadership group will further explore ways to enable businesses to align with the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and several longer-term ambitions such as the potential for minimum, locally appropriate water stewardship standards or an open framework to represent all data, evidence and best practice to drive continuous improvement and facilitate pooling of resources.
The declaration was launched at a Water Summit attended by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who presented a speech at the event.
“In a world where once unimaginably vast quantities of energy and data can be transported over long distances in no time at all, it is only too easy to forget that water is extraordinarily heavy to move around, except when it is going where it wants to go – which is invariably downhill,” HRH The Prince of Wales said in his speech. “Expressions such as ‘going with the flow’ and ‘trying to push water uphill’ were coined with good reason. That may seem trite, but to me it sums up why effective water management is both local and organised around the natural catchments which have been shaped by a combination of natural forces and human activity over millennia.”
The Summit brought together experts and thought leaders from business, agriculture, regulation, academia, government, the public sector and civil society to explore innovative ways to address the challenges of catchment management. It showcased some of the latest best practice examples of catchment partnerships and water management from around the country.