needs of stakeholders at the heart of drought research
“Climate change is decreasing water availability and this research has definitely demonstrated how that can cause significant problems in water treatment works and has given us a better understanding of different types of water resource options.” Dr Chris Lambert, Supply Demand Senior Technical Advisor, Thames Water
initial proposal for funding in 2014 to the final event on November 7, 2019,
About Drought was driven by the needs of the organisations, communities and
people who would be relying on the results of its research. Their practical
requirements, regulatory restrictions, governance and operational methods have
informed the structure, design and accessibility of the datasets and tools.
Even at the stage of drafting the funding proposal Thames Water was invited to review it by MaRIUS’ project leader Jim Hall, Professor of Climate and Environmental Risks at Oxford University.
Matching the needs of water industry,
NGOs and government
Chris Lambert, who is responsible for developing Thames Water’s Water Resource Management and Drought plans, joined the MaRIUS Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG). The aim of drawing this expert group from industry, NGOs and government to steer the project, liaising with MaRIUS’ social and natural scientists, was to ensure its outputs, including the ‘impacts dashboard’, matched the needs of the group in an evolving policy context. This early access proved crucial to the benefits Thames Water has gained.
“Being on the SAG as well as being involved in the parts of the project that
were relevant to Thames Water, gave me wider visibility of the total work of
the project. I had a much better understanding of how we could use some of the
research in developing Thames Water’s water supply strategy.
“It led to
us commissioning some tailored, specific work that gave us a better insight
into the reliability of future water resource development and then we fed into
our 2019 Water Resource Management Plan.”
Algae growth impact on reservoirs and
particular interest was the work on algae growth in rivers and ‘drought
coincidence’. As a result, Thames Water commissioned its own more detailed
research on how projected algae growth could impact on extracting water from
reservoirs in conditions of water scarcity or drought, slowing its passage
through the filtering system and therefore the speed at which public demand for
water could be met.
also commissioned the development of a bespoke application from MaRIUS’s water
quality research data, focusing on the catchments of the Severn and Thames, and
the added likely impact of climate change on water availability.
further potential impacts of the timing and positioning of water abstraction,
i.e. from the bottom of the river catchment as opposed to higher up, including
for the health of the Severn and Thames catchments. The results led to a change
in plans for the management regime of Thames Water’s reservoirs.
Climate change is decreasing water
“If you look into future likely scenarios, climate change is decreasing water
availability and this research has definitely demonstrated how that can cause
significant problems in water treatment works and has given us a better
understanding of different types of water resource options.
“Part of my
role is to engage with academic bodies to understand the latest thinking and
communicate it internally to our senior executives and board members and to our
external stakeholders as well. Another part is ensuring we have effective
communication for public and community consultation on our Water Management
Plans for the more practical aspects of day-to-day water supply. Through my
involvement with MaRIUS and About Drought I have found the events – such as the
one-day water suppliers’ feedback workshop in Oxford – very useful in giving me
visibility of what has been done and in supporting me in getting internal
“I have been
able to follow-up with UK-based speakers who have always been very responsive
and my colleagues have also found them very helpful.
“I do think
that it would be worthwhile continuing bringing this community together, even
if it is just once a year, to keep us up to speed. The work isn’t going to stop
just because About Drought has stopped.
important to ensure the good work that has been done to date continues and
doesn’t dry up just because the funding dries up.”
Interview by Sally Stevens
Posted October 2019