Tuesday 26 Feb 2013Delivering secure and sustainable water supplies in England and Wales – some reflections on the issues, difficulties and options

Dr Colin Fenn -

Harrison 170 14:00-15:00

Water resources planning involves forecasting available supplies and demands, and doing what’s best to keep a sensible gap between them over the long term, particularly in times and places of supply-demand pressure (in drought spells, and in peak demand periods). This has to be done at least all-in cost to customers, society and (supposedly) the environment, to meet social, economic and political expectations subject (increasingly) to benefit-cost and willingness to pay constraints. There’s been progress. We’ve moved from rulers to spreadsheets to estimate the (micro-) components of demand, and to resource system models to optimise the use of available resources to meet (slightly managed) demand. It’s no longer a pure predict and provide game. Abstraction licence reform is also on the political agenda (even if to deliver allocative efficiency, under the assumption that legacy over-abstraction and over-licensing issues will have been pre-delivered by other means). But much remains to be done, in the face of population growth, demographic and social change, climate change and environmental protection considerations, as well as a low cost to customers political imperative. How we deal with exceptional events is the key challenge, here, particularly as/if today’s extremes become tomorrow’s norms. Are historical stats and future climate projections fit for the purpose of determining how we should deal with future supply-demand issues? Or should we move away from a forecast-led approach to determining how we manage water for people, the environment and the economy? And isn’t it about time we started to use smart licensing and smart charging as well as storage and inter-connection to manage the use of resources in dry and drought spells, and in periods of peak demand?


Bio: Colin Fenn is a water sector specialist. He has chaired CIWEM’s Water Resources Expert Panel for 10 years, and was the inaugural reporter on the water sector and on the flood and coastal management sector for the Institution of Civil Engineers’ State of the Nation report, from 1999 to 2004, and a member of its review panel for the 2012 State of the Nation - Water report. He also served on Ofwat’s Future Regulation Advisory Panel from 2012-13, on the BHS National Committee from 2005 to 2012 and on the editorial panel of the ICE’s Water Management Journal from 2006 to 2010. He has provided expert evidence at many public inquiries, and high-level advice and consultancy services to many water companies, the Environment Agency, Ofwat, Defra, UKWIR, the National Audit Office, the Greater London Authority, the Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee, WWF-UK, the World Commission on Dams, and (for the 2004 Olympics) the Athens Water Company. He has published over 40 papers on water resources and flood management, and is a regular presenter and chair at national and international meetings.

Colin’s career includes spells in the university sector, in a water company and in consulting. He was MD of Atkins Water, and then of HR Wallingford before establishing his own consulting business, CFonstream, in 2005. He was a Non-Executive Director of Hydro-Logic Ltd from 2006, and became interim MD of Hydrologic Services Ltd in 2011. He is also an Honorary Research Fellow & Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University.

Colin was a member of the WWF-UK Itchen Initiative team that recently proposed innovative ways of managing the available water resources base of England & Wales under competing and growing pressures. He has since led work for Ofwat on the design and development of practicable incentive mechanisms for managing abstraction from the environment – including the abstraction incentive mechanism (AIM) referred to in Ofwat’s Future Price Limits work, and in the Government’s Water White Paper, Water for Life.

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