Water governance in Cumbria

Natural Course publishes its latest findings as part of the ‘reviewing the model for water management in the North West’ project

The latest report is an in-depth study of Cumbria, providing a more detailed understanding of governance arrangements across the county

Following on from the high-level study of water governance arrangements in the North West River Basin District, the second phase of this review has now been completed.

Cumbria represents one of the most complex areas in terms of water governance (with regards to environment, overlapping boundaries, interests and issues).  It is divided into six local councils, and four water Catchment Partnerships which cover five different management catchments of Derwent North West, South West Lakes, Kent and Leven, Lune and Eden.  Some catchments also overlap with other counties (e.g. the Lune covers parts of Lancashire).   Key water issues identified for the county are flooding, drought and water quality.

A combination of literature reviews plus core interviews, online surveys and follow-up interviews were conducted with stakeholders actively involved in water management in Cumbria, to help answer the following questions:

  • What are the specific issues facing water management in the North West, and Cumbria specifically?
  • How is water governed in the North West generally, and specifically in the catchments of Cumbria?
  • What aspects of water governance work well and which do not?
  • What is needed to improve the governance of water in Cumbria?
  • What alternative governance structures would enable better co-ordination/governance of water in Cumbria and the North West?
  • What do stakeholders feel about alternative governance structures?
  • What would need to be done to trial alternative governance structures in Cumbria?

The results give a useful insight into the strengths, weaknesses and improvements sought locally.  To ensure the range of stakeholder views captured was as representative as possible, responses were assessed against the OECD stakeholder mapping guide and additional responses sought from poorly represented groups – giving us confidence that the key messages emerging are a good reflection of local stakeholder views.

The key messages that will be taken forwarded into Phase 3 are:

  • There is widespread support that effort should be made to improve water governance.
  • There is much that is good about the current water governance system, and that it provides a good base to build on and develop (rather than requiring large scale change).
  • Catchment level approaches are important
  • There is a need for a county based co-ordination structure that integrates water and land-use (both urban and rural) more into the local economy. It would need to be at a level that makes sense for the wider range of players that need to be involved, and ideally reach out to influence decisions on the land in the catchments which drain into the county.  However, it would need to be properly resourced, have a high level of commitment to integration and address local tensions in water management.
  • There are a number of barriers to integration, and it is important to get people together earlier before plans are formed to influence the content of key plans (rather than partnership working being an add-on)
  • Governance should be underpinned with better information sharing and tools, and incorporate local knowledge in decisions and choices. It must be co-designed with input and support of local stakeholders

 Adam Chapman (Natural Course Project Manager) says….

“Throughout this study we have endeavoured to work with, and ascertain the thoughts of, key stakeholders at both a local and a strategic level, to better understand the strengths and limitations of the current water governance structure in Cumbria. Initial feedback from stakeholders suggests there are aspects of the current water governance structure that are working well and a preference to refine this with greater integration mechanisms, rather than creating new governance arrangements. These ideas will be explored in greater detail in Phase 3 of the study”.

The full report can be accessed here