Unblinkered approach to managing water resources
“Being involved with DRY has been experience- and mind-expanding! It introduced us to a whole new group of people who had different ideas and ways of doing things and we learned a lot.”Kate Carver, Great Fen Project Manager, Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire
From science to songs and a ‘mock trial’ of water use evidence – no-one could accuse About Drought’s research of being blinkered!
Kate Carver, who was invited by the DRY project to contribute to the Bevills Leam Local Action Group (LAG) in rural Cambridgeshire, found herself acting as a ‘witness’ in a traditional Sardinian-style trial of evidence performed in Ramsay Rural Museum that enabled the community to expose and address the conflicting perspectives, interests and priorities around drought and water scarcity.On another occasion Kate was invited to feature in ‘Utopia’, a festival/exhibition at Somerset House, London, marking the 500th anniversary of Thomas More’s book ‘Utopia’, bringing together people from around the UK. Several members of the Bevills Leam DRY LAG attended including Kate. They had an exhibition stand about the Bevills Leam LAG and the DRY project and engaged with those attending the event.
Shared stories woven into song
DRY’s many creative community events elicited stories that were woven into a community song written by folk singer, musician and songwriter Sharron Kraus ‘A River is a Snake’ which you can hear on DRY’s website.
It opened up a new world of social science engagement which enabled Kate to meet people and interests from a broad variety of sectors and affiliations, and this fed into the Great Fen’s new Water Works project, funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund, to promote sustainability.
Kate says: “Being involved with DRY has been experience- and mind-expanding! We at Great Fen had not worked with social scientists before so that was quite an innovation for us. It introduced us to a whole new group of people who had different ideas and ways of doing things and we learned a lot.
The benefits of bringing groups together
“The methodology was interesting and useful. We learned to not be afraid of new methods, not have preconceived ideas about different groups of people and different sectors. It was a freer way of working but still with academic rigour.
“The DRY project was a societal indicator that showed the benefits of bringing different groups together to work for sustainability, it pointed the way.
“In nature conservancy we spend a lot of time working on technical aspects and it is easy to get blinkered by that so it was good to meet farmers from neighbouring areas, not just those on our ‘patch’, and really useful to hear their perspective on when they need water and what for – I was able to understand the day-to-day practicalities.
Pressure on land for agriculture and housing
“The area I cover is the driest part of the UK and one of the most productive agricultural areas. There is great pressure on the land for housing development but also great pressure on nature. “Availability and use of water is a constant preoccupation in this part of the world and has been for centuries. Water has been being drained away since the 17th Century, the whole agricultural system is predicated on drainage, on pumping water away. But when peat dries out it emits carbon dioxide, if we re-wet the area it can mitigate carbon loss so in terms of climate change these natural systems will be critical in helping this country to adhere to its emission goals.”
Bring flood and drought research together
Kate is not the only stakeholder involved in About Drought’s projects to suggest that the next step should be viewing water management as one issue, bringing drought and flood research together.
She says: “I believe the remit should now be expanded into an integrated approach to water management, bringing in other elements as well – pollination, carbon sequestration, biodiversity … all the eco system services that the landscape provides could benefit from the DRY LAG approach.”
Interview by Sally Stevens
Posted October 2019