Blog: Introducing the first Greater Manchester Water Forum

Mark Turner, Natural Course Greater Manchester Team Leader, gives us an overview of what happened at the inaugural Greater Manchester Water Forum…

 The Greater Manchester Water Forum met for the first time on Friday 18th June 2021 as part of the Greater Manchester Natural Capital Group annual conference and as part of Natural Course. The Forum brought together organisations and partnerships from all parts of the Greater Manchester water cycle to share knowledge and experience and to build understanding of the roles and responsibilities of local organisations. The 2021 Forum had the following objectives:

  • To promote and facilitate an increase in collaborative working across all parts of the Greater Manchester water cycle.
  • To identify opportunities to develop an integrated water management approach across Greater Manchester.
  • To enable organisations and partnerships to deliver more holistic projects that improve their response to new and emerging challenges such as climate change.
  • To identify opportunities to innovate and to raise awareness of new technologies and emerging business and finance models.

The Forum was chaired by Derek Antrobus, former Salford City Council Elected Member and Chair of the North West Regional Flood & Coastal Committee, and was attended by approx. 60 delegates from the public, private and voluntary sectors. The Forum featured case studies, showing integrated water management in action at urban and urban fringe locations across Greater Manchester, and a series of facilitated break-out sessions that enabled delegates to share their local knowledge.

The case studies and the conversations highlighted the broad range of integrated water management projects currently being delivered across Greater Manchester and more widely. These include nature-based projects supported by several EU-funded initiatives such as IGNITION, Natural Course and Grow Green as well as the holistic neighbourhood scale plans for flood risk management and property resilience, aligned to a major EA capital scheme, through the Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme project in Rochdale.

Regarding doing more and delivering a greater number of integrated water management schemes across the city region Forum delegates supported a roll-out of a place-based approach, aligning strategies, such as flood risk mitigation, EU Water Framework Directive and nature recovery, in recognised geographical areas or specific catchments.

The delegates went on to discuss the barriers to the delivery of an integrated water management approach that they have encountered. These include broader organisational objectives that don’t always coincide with water management objectives and cultural barriers that mean that departments within organisations working at different points of the water cycle are not closely connected. At a more practical level difficulties around securing landowner permissions and concerns about the maintenance of green infrastructure interventions, for example, were also raised as challenges to up-scaling nature-based and multi-benefit projects.

For the future, delegates saw the network of catchment partnerships as an ideal opportunity to bring partners together. Meanwhile, an increase in the delivery of nature-based solutions, as promoted through IGNITION and Natural Course for example, will require a greater understanding of the risks associated with this innovative approach before delivery can be scaled-up and attract a broader range of funding. Greater evidence around the costs and benefits of an integrated and nature-based approach could also help with the delivery of more multi-benefit projects. The delegates acknowledged that building and sustaining partnerships is extremely beneficial though this approach takes time and organisational capacity.

Emerging policy areas, such as the requirement to produce a Local Nature Recovery Strategy and to adopt a Biodiversity Net Gain approach to new developments, were seen as opportunities for the future alongside the UK Government’s Environmental Land Management Scheme.

The Greater Manchester Water Forum helped to start conversations and to continue existing dialogue across the city region. This interactive approach will be taken forward through existing groups such as the Natural Course Greater Manchester partnership group and through future meetings of the Greater Manchester Water Forum.

For more information on how we are using a natural capital approach across Greater Manchester: Wider engagement across Greater Manchester on how to use a natural capital approach – Natural Course