If your business didn’t have access to water or sufficient water quality, what would the impacts be? What are the priorities for businesses when it comes to information about drought and water scarcity? These were two of the themes discussed at a Business Stakeholder workshop held at the University of the West of England, Bristol, on Tuesday 31st October 2017. Stakeholders representing water companies, energy companies, and farmer-facing and public-service organisations attended to feed their views into the ENDOWS work programme. Discussions highlighted uncertainty about the future, and the need for earlier warning systems – for businesses to understand with greater lead time when water restrictions would occur (the later the warnings, the more expensive it becomes). Other workshop outcomes included:
The diversity of different types of business, water use and hence vulnerability to drought and water scarcity was acknowledged; it was also recognised that there will be opportunities for some businesses.
The need of some businesses for information to fill the ‘blind spot’ between weather forecasting (which becomes unreliable after 2 weeks), and seasonal forecasting (which is more reliable 3-4 months ahead), which would allow them to plan more effectively. There are also issues with the ability of current science skillsets to fill this gap.
There is a possibility to group, and communicate with, businesses via the type of water extraction they use primarily: groundwater, surface water flows, storage reservoirs.
It can seem counterintuitive or be publically unacceptable that water scarcity measures need to be implemented in winter (perhaps when it’s raining), when water stocks are at their lowest. There was a feeling that it was easier to communicate about drought when it felt intuitive to do so (during hot, dry weather), and so these opportunities need to be maximised pragmatically by businesses. It is also necessary to bust some myths regarding droughts only occurring in summer!
Much of the focus so far has been on the quantity of water resources, but there is now more attention being given by businesses to water quality – and also to the way low flows may impact on filtration systems via, for e.g., eutrophic blooms of certain organisms.
Trade-offs between using water for cooling systems, for example, and alternatives, must be balanced – as many alternative coolants may include harmful chemicals or require greater energy use.
Several in the group deemed it important to take account of the way information about water actually travels to consumers – often via intermediaries such as water retail companies or agronomists – rather than being conveyed directly from suppliers.
It was seen as essential not to create yet another selection of disaggregated tools, but to think about what integrated platforms the DWS outputs can build towards. One such example platform is the US government’s National Integrated Drought Information System, where visitors can drill down to find out more about drought in their region. Sharing data from locally collected sources on central, open platforms was seen as important, yet there are disincentives for businesses to cooperate, as it may put them at competitive disadvantage.
Workshop discussions also emphasised the need to make case studies and information relevant to specific business sectors, and a case for ‘knowing your own water data’ – i.e. encouraging scientific measurement within businesses, rather than this being outsourced and therefore distanced from the people with the greatest interest in the business.
MaRIUS LIVE! Managing the risks, impacts and uncertainties of droughts and water scarcity was held on the 2nd of November 2017.
Trevor Bishop, Director of Strategy and Planning at OFWAT, described MaRIUS as “one of the most important bits of research that we’ve seen in drought and water scarcity” as more than 80 delegates met to hear presentations setting out the findings of the project’s research and the outputs available for use.
Trevor gave the opening address with Professor Jim Hall, Director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, PI of MaRIUS, summarising the project for audience members representing water and energy companies, regulators, consultancies and researchers.
The project researchers took the opportunity to outline their findings on the effect of drought on people and the environment, covering topics of governance, communities, drought management , hydrology, water quality and resources, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, agriculture, the economy and electricity supply.
Feedback from the half-day event has been very positive with the project’s datasets generating particular interest. Films will shortly be available from MaRIUS Live! One giving an overview and flavour of the event – including an interview with Trevor Bishop on the value of MaRIUS – and the others featuring the series of presentations. All links will be published here on AboutDrought and the MaRIUS website.
If you attended MaRIUS LIVE! But have not yet given your feedback, please complete the feedback form.
Friday 14th December, 2018
Location: Jurys Inn Cheltenham, GL51 0TS
Event organisers: Co-organised by the Centre for Water, Communities and Resilience, and Science Communication Unit, UWE Bristol with the Federation of Small Businesses
Event type: Workshop
Booking: Register online
The focus of this workshop will be the co-development of a business toolkit for increased water resilience. It will exchange knowledge from the UK About Drought project (aboutdrought.com) about ways that small and medium sized businesses can become more ‘water resilient’.
This workshop will be of particular interest to those running small and medium sized businesses that use water in any way in their business processes, and are exposed to different types of water risk.
Participants will explore the ways in which water (from flood to drought) could affect their business, including opportunities for innovation. Sharing draft resources prepared by the About Drought team, we will discuss the design of a toolkit designed to help businesses think through their water resilience. This will include reflecting on the messages and messengers that businesses engage with and trust, along with the merits of incorporating water resilient thinking into wider Business Sustainability Management.
• Water resource management (reduce, reuse, recycle)
• Resilience and management of situations for flooding and drought risk
• Contingency planning and risk management
In addition there may be opportunities to discuss:
• Regulatory compliance
• Resource efficiency and circular economy
• Integration with environmental management systems (ISO14001); CSR programmes (corporate social responsibility); and programmes for organisational change and innovation
Participants will be invited to contribute to the co-development of a water resilience toolkit of resources for small businesses that will form part of guidance to be rolled out nationally. All contributors’ contributions will be acknowledged.
If you have any queries about this event please contact Ruth Vargo or Laura Chilver at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 13 December at 11 am
30 minutes duration Host: Helen Gavin, University of Oxford/Atkins Presenter: Helen Gavin (slides by Jamie Hannaford, CEH)
This webinar features the UK Research Councils’ programme, ‘Drought and Water Scarcity in the UK’. The webinar will focus on a project within this programme called ‘ENDOWS’: ENgaging diverse stakeholders and publics with outputs from the UK DrOught and Water Scarcity programme.
The objective of ENDOWS is to engage with stakeholders, practitioners, and publics, to involve them in the UK Drought and Water Scarcity programme and to disseminate information about the findings, outputs and datasets arising from the programme that everyone can use.
Jamie Hannaford will give a 20 minute overview to the ENDOWS phase of work, and afterwards there will 10 minutes to answer questions.
We held our Showcase Event on 2 November 2017 to set out the findings of the MaRIUS research, and what outputs are available. This event profiled the research findings on the effect and impacts of droughts and water scarcity in the UK, what outputs are available for use; what further work that is planned, and how interested parties can get involved.
The span of the MaRIUS project is large and covers physical and social science topics including: drought governance; drought options and management; community responses and environmental competency. It includes climatic aspects of drought and the derivation of a synthetic ‘drought event library’; hydrological responses both on a catchment and national scale; effects on water quality including nutrient concentration in rivers and algal concentrations in reservoirs, and effect of land use change; the ramifications on water resources on the Thames catchment and also nationally. It includes the impact of drought and water scarcity on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems; agriculture and farming; the economy; and on electricity production.
The event was very successful and provided a key opportunity for stakeholders and researchers to meet and discuss the effect and impact of drought and water scarcity in the UK and what research outputs are available for the whole community.