Water Governance video transcript

Natural Course.  Improving our rivers through stronger collaboration.

Dave Marshall, Natural Course Programme Manager, Environment Agency.

Natural Course is a European Union LIFE IP Programme, bringing together public bodies, private organisations and non-government organisations as well, trying to identify and then improve on the main barriers that are affecting the water environment across the northwest.

We’ve got a longstanding set of issues – things like heavily modified water bodies, lots of diffuse pollution from urban areas, as well as the more recent agricultural issues that means that our overall water quality is relatively low compared to the rest of the country.  For example, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire area only has 3% good ecological status across our rivers.

You’ve got several different political boundaries coming together just upstream, so you have Tameside for example running into Stockport, then the Mersey runs on down into Manchester City Council area. So we’ve got different political angles, we’ve got different organisations coming together as well that are responsible for the water environment.  And, as a result, we really need increased ambition to improve that water environment.

Progress against the good ecological status of rivers, the status of the rivers and the water environment, has more or less come to a standstill across the whole country, not just in the northwest.  And that’s one of the things we want to really work on with our water governance work, building an ambition to actually improve the water environment, not just to protect it and maintain the status quo.

We’ve identified that we need increased leadership in three areas: collaboration, integration and a sense of direction as well, because we really need to align strategies and plans basically over the longer-term and that will cement everybody working better together.

In terms of achieving ambitious targets in future, I think we’re really, really well placed, because we’ve got a wide range of stakeholders that are very, very keen to work together.  It’s just a case of building that in and committing publicly, making those targets very, very visible with everybody pooling resources as opposed to working in silo’s.  That’s how we will meet our ambition.

Taking an integrated approach to improve the water environment.

Mark Turner, Natural Course Greater Manchester Team Leader, Greater Manchester Combine Authority.

I think here on the River Tame in Stockport, you can see all of the various challenges.  So in terms of water quality, the river is perhaps not doing as much as it could do from water quantity and flooding perspective.  You can see some of the litter and debris in the channel – that’s a challenge through into the future.  Also, there is a whole series of invasive non-native species of plants on the river banks which are a challenge to the wildlife and the ecology of the river.

I think with better water governance, more people working together, we can tackle some of those problems in a more holistic and rounded way.

Through Natural Course, we’ve really understood and got our heads around water governance in Greater Manchester.  We’ve also set up a partnership group which brings together the different local authorities and other players on the water agenda to work together on projects and to talk about the issues and the challenges.

We’ve organised a water forum which has brought together different organisations to really talk about the challenges, and bringing together people don’t traditionally work together, don’t traditionally speak to each other, so hopefully starting off and fostering a more integrated and collaborative approach.

Better collaboration will enable us to deliver more integrated, holistic projects on the ground, perhaps tackling issues that we couldn’t tackle otherwise, to be more efficient, to be more cost efficient in terms of in terms of delivery, but also to help us think to the future and look for opportunities around the development process.  And can we work together to deliver more integrated water solutions into the future, meaning that we’re not having to tackle problems further on down the line.

One of the unique things about Natural Course is it brings together budgets and resources from a range of organisations.  For the future, against a climate change background, I think it’s more important that we have adequate and sufficient water governance to help us manage and adapt to some of the changes that will happen as our climate develops over the coming years.  So it’s more important than ever that we think about the effects of water governance.

Dave Marshall, Natural Course Programme Manager, Environment Agency.

My advice in terms of tackling water governance would be to first to ask yourself the question ‘are you satisfied with the water environment in your area or are you sampling protecting it and maintaining the status quo?’ And if you want to improve, then look at working better collaboratively and set yourself some measures of collaboration.  Natural Course for example, over the eight years that we’ve been running, has set up some great indicators of success in order to actually measure that collaboration.

In terms of resources, once you’ve got a collaboration working really well and effectively together, then look at actually increasing your resources, working together on that in a non-competitive fashion.  And for that, we can help and give you some steer in terms of great work that we’ve done leading up to the Wyre Investment Readiness Fund and the Greater Manchester Environment Fund for example.

So my advice overall, is to really, really work together to improve our water environment.