CIWEM highlight UK water innovation/regulation problems

After Roger and I have worked hard to raise the profile of the crisis of a lack of innovation in the UK water industry for many years, it’s always nice to come across another individual or organisation championing the same cause. This happened today as I read a recent press release by CIWEM.

It explained that at a ‘recent CIWEM conference’ – overlooking the usual press release vagueness, presumably that means their 10th December 2009, Rethinking Water: Emerging challenges for Regulation and Legislation event – apparently:

87 percent of delegates supported a comprehensive review of the financial regulation of water to encourage innovation, to incentivise water conservation, to integrate water management with environmental policy and legislation, and to address future challenges. Nearly all agreed that innovation is not supported effectively.

There was a further view from this event’s delegates that the ‘take-up of innovation by the industry is a matter of particular concern’. Yes, indeed. We wholeheartedly agree and have been making similar overall points for a decade or more.

The event also addressed the Cave Review and Walker Review. Whilst it’s good that these two reviews (albeit Cave more so than Walker, I feel) seem to be keeping the innovation issue in the ‘headlines’ (well, the water headlines to be more exact) sadly the issue remains only near the top of the agenda for water-related conferences and events. It’s still far from being an urgent item on the ‘to do’ lists of Defra, Ofwat, the EA and so on.

At least, at the same time, I think Roger and I can now say that the ‘crisis of innovation’ in the privatised UK water industry that we’ve been harping on about for so many years has now been thoroughly diagnosed – perhaps even over-diagnosed. Some of its symptoms – such as an inability to improve sustainability or adapt to climate change challenges – are also being increasingly highlighted (as indeed they were at this CIWEM event). But what concerns us most is this: What is actually being done about this situation bar more talking at conferences, workshops and the like?

Sadly still, very little it seems. Well, at least the topic is still considered ‘hot’ enough – even nearly four years after the work Roger and I did for UKWIR on innovation barriers – to inspire sufficient events to keep the coffers topped up for water-related organisations and continues to provide plenty of opportunities for day trips for the usual suspects, right…?

I’m happy to report that won’t include me for the foreseeable future too, as I gave up going to these events some time ago. I’m more interested in what’s going to come next. In fact I understand UKWIR may be working on this very topic some time this year. So hopefully there might actually be some progress to report here before too long…

Update (15/11/2016): CIWEM logo added as featured image from this source.

Duncan Thomas

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