Scoping roundtable: Water and housing - where next?

Climate change and population growth are putting increasing pressure on the water and infrastructure sector in the UK. While climate change does not only increase the likelihood of more frequent and more severe flooding events, but also heightens the risk of severe droughts, the population in England is forecast to grow by over 10 million people by 2050. This growth and associated new developments are putting pressure on the existing sewerage networks, a large proportion of this growth will also occur in areas where water is already scarce.

There is a need for industry, government and regulators to work together with end users on how best to respond to the risk of severe drought. Businesses will need to develop new ways of working across boundaries and with a wider range of stakeholders to optimise the use of scarce water resources, particularly through transfers; the recently established National Infrastructure Commission can potentially play a significant role in this context. Water companies will also need to work with housing developers to increase the water efficiency of new homes, and targeted government policies and suitable regulatory frameworks should be introduced to support this. 

In its Housing White Paper, entitled 'Fixing our broken housing market', the Government refers to the National Planning Policy Framework and that local planning authorities are expected to consider and address the range of impacts arising from climate change. This should include the adoption of proactive strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, taking full account of flood risk, coastal change and water supply and demand considerations. Moreover, Government points to 'Better Connected', which sets out the process for securing utility provision for developments from initial scoping to post-development and introduces new voluntar ystandards for water and sewerage and telecoms. Beyond these references, however, the Housing White Paper does not go into further detail about how the Government is planning to address challenges and opportunities around the provision of new housing and making water management more sustainable.

In December 2016, the WSBF held a parliamentary seminar on ‘Water and infrastructure management – a multi-sector approach’ under chairmanship of the Earl of Selborne GBE FRS DL as a first scoping exercise. The discussion revealed an appetite among participants to delve further into the subject area through a comprehensive research programme. This event is a scoping round table to explore how to design this piece of work and aims to address the following issues:

  • Catchment-wide management plans as a tool in increasing water resilience in the built environment.
  • The design of comprehensive long-term strategies to address the risk of flooding and drought in the UK.
  • The role and requirements of cities in the context of increasing resilience in water management.
  • Cooperation between water companies and housing developers to improve water efficiency in new developments.
  • Review and reconfiguration of UK bodies and agencies to overcome current obstacles to integrated approaches to water and infrastructure management.
  • Design of a national level ‘adaptive plan’ to supports ongoing Water Resource Management Plans and determine investments and policy interventions for the 5 decades.

Chair: Angela Smith MP