The Science, Water and Nature Conference took place at Five Lakes Resort in Colchester, and the main message that emerged from the two-day get-together was that building new collaborations is key for a sustainable future.
The event began with a video message from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, a champion of sustainability for over 50 years, before delegates learned about the biodiversity challenges faced by the water industry, landowners, and economists.
Water Director Keith Haslett spoke on behalf of Northumbrian Water while attendees also heard from Ian Barker from the Institute of Water.
Matthew Morris, the Duchy of Cornwall’s land manager, looked at the importance of harnessing data as they work towards their long-term aim of sustainable stewardship.
Savills’ Jon Dearsley gave a landowners’ perspective and HM Treasury economist Lucy Watkinson provided an overview of the Dasgupta Review, before acknowledging that “our economies are imbedded in nature”.
David Hill, chairman of the Environment Bank, focused on how the global biodiversity funding gap could be closed, but his overall message was quite simple – action is needed now.
A site visit to the spectacular Abberton Reservoir, which was enhanced in 2015, allowed attendees to see at first-hand a perfect example of what can be achieved through diverse partnerships.
Three workshops on the second day allowed attendees to break off into smaller groups and focus on future innovation, regulatory and legislative changes, and costings.
Tweed Forum trustee Chris Spray spoke passionately about the success of sustainable catchment partnerships in Costa Rica and New York City and what we could learn from them.
And Phillip Blaen, Sustainability Manager at Yorkshire Water, kindly gave up his time to explain why his company plumped for a nature-based solution for their enhancement of Clifton wastewater treatment works.
The conference was brought to a close with a session dedicated to how our learnings can be put into practice, accompanied by case studies from the University of Exeter and our friends at Anglian Water.
Heidi Mottram, Northumbrian Water Chief Executive, said: “The water sector is totally dependent on a healthy and thriving natural world for its core purpose, so I believe we have a responsibility to be at the forefront of leading the charge to collaborate across sectors and put individual interests aside for the good of our shared natural environment and society.
“There couldn’t be a better time to be having these conversations. With recent and upcoming changes to the legislative and regulatory outlook, there is huge opportunity to think and do things differently.
“We need to think at a landscape scale to deliver natural capital initiatives that deliver multiple benefits.
“Building new collaborations is essential for a sustainable future; and I am excited to see what new partnerships will be forged from this conference.”