Oxford working with the Environment Agency National Framework to help manage England’s water resources

Given uncertainties from climate change and other variabilities, how can the UK best manage and plan for its water resources to remain sustainable? What type of solutions make the most sense? These are just some of the questions challenging the Environment Agency’s new team developing the water resources National Framework.

Luckily, they are also the questions that Professor Jim Hall’s research team have been tackling, for the last four years under the MaRIUS project. In additional to serving on the National Framework’s Senior Steering Group, Jim Hall and his team are providing technical experience to help with the Framework’s programme of work.

From the recent 25-year environmental plan, the Environment Agency has a created a National Framework to better manage the water resources across England. The National Framework will provide strategic direction to water resources planning, include water users outside the water industry and support collaboration. It will advance and present evidence on probable water deficits and surpluses across England over time and will use this evidence to set expectations of regional groups and water companies. It will also develop and scope tools and science to support collaboration between water companies and other sectors. The Agency is now working with both the University of Oxford and the University of Manchester on their respective models to better understand the possibilities of water scarcity for England in the future and potential solutions.

NERC under the UK Droughts and Water Scarcity Programme, Oxford’s MaRIUS project works to manage the risks, impacts, and uncertainties of droughts and water scarcity. Part of this large project involves modelling national water resources, using the simulation and optimization model platform called WATHNET. The water resources researchers have also worked in collaboration with Atkins to produce the 2016 pivotal Water UK Long Term Planning Framework report. The model assesses water resources in both England and Wales now and in the future, in the context of climate change. The model includes validated data from water companies, and other datasets, and is used to can assess the likelihood of future water shortages and when and where strategic solutions may be needed. The model includes data from sector other than public water supply, like agriculture, from other MaRIUS models, thus enabling examination of multi-sector needs, and the economic impact of drought and water scarcity. The water resources model is currently being expanded so that, from spring 2019, the Oxford team can work closely with the National Framework to and begin to explore future scenarios. Once again, Oxford is at the forefront of applying water science in decision-making.