Hertfordshire County Council’s Water Summit, 14 March 2013

Last Thursday I was invited to the Hertfordshire Water Summit hosted by Hertfordshire County Council and my researcher Catharine attended on my behalf. The event held at the Fielder Centre in Hatfield, lasted the whole day and was split between a morning of talks and an afternoon of workshops.

Each of the morning’s speakers touched upon a different angle of water and the importance it holds for the county of Hertfordshire. Councillor Richard Thake Executive Member for Environment & Community Safety at HCC opened the conference and stressed the need for water management planning to become a priority in Hertfordshire. Chris Preston from DEFRA proceeded to outline the Government’s position on water and referred to the White Paper “Water for Life” and the Draft Water Bill. John Wood, Chief Executive and Director of Environment at HCC touched on his department’s perspective and emphasised the importance of collaboration by the various stakeholders involved. He highlighted that this issue can only be tackled by parties working together towards the common goal of better water management. Neil Hayes Executive Director of the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership spoke not only about Hertfordshire’s economy and the significance which water plays in supplying businesses, but also its role in influencing where businesses decide to base themselves geographically. Charles Walker Member of Parliament for Broxbourne shared his concerns about chalk streams and the need to ensure their preservation. Charles pointed out that the UK is home to 85% of the world’s chalk streams but in his words currently “we are squandering our inheritance” and stressed that urgent action is needed. He argued in favour of greater use of reservoirs where possible. The morning finished with a talk from Andrew Wescott Policy Manager at the Institution of Civil Engineers. Like John Wood earlier on in the morning, Andrew Wescott promoted the idea of collaboration amongst stakeholders to manage water resource planning. He also called for a permanent Water Security Task Force for Hertfordshire too.

The afternoon’s workshops were hosted by specific stakeholders Affinity Water and Local Nature Partnership and they looked at water resource planning, water demand management and the development of knowledge on the environmental value of water. The day finished with closing remarks from Ian Reay also from HCC. The day was extremely well organised and Herts County Council should be congratulated for its efforts. Water is critically important and Hertfordshire needs to concentrate on water provision, in order to avoid a serious drought in the future. We have already seen the effects of the drought last year and Hertfordshire suffered greatly during this period. I look forward to seeing what further developments there are in light of last week’s summit.

On Saturday I was able to catch up with Ian Knight of the River Beane Restoration Association and we agreed that the Water Summit was a step forward.

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